Sunday, January 25, 2009

Back in Ireland...

... and guess what, it's raining! And it started so well this morning with nice sunshine... Ah well, it's actually not that bad, because after coming back really late last night (drunken woman caused delay of take off for an hour, missed next aircoach on arrival, no taxi for ages at Bewley's Hotel) and sleeping in I spent most of the day doing house chores (3 loads of washing!!) and college work that I had procrastinated on.

Dry riverbed in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria

But I wish I was still on Gran Canaria! Looking back, it was a really good decision to go there for base training. I cycled a total of 41 hours and about 980km with 19500m of climb in the two weeks that I was there (even though I was sick for a few days and had a muscular pain issue which reduced my time on the bike), so it was really good for building a good base for this season's racing. And you can actually cycle for 5 hours in one go without getting rained on there (it's hard to get a 5 hour stretch of no rain in Ireland) and being able to climb for 2 hours solid if you want to. We had very little rain on Gran Canaria, but we were told that it was actually one of their coldest and wettest winters - lol, it's sad that a cold and wet winter on Gran Canaria is still better than a summer in Ireland....

Famous dunes of Maspalomas

I only had one puncture on the whole trip, after I rode a really rough stretch of road and had stopped off to buy some water. When I came back to my bike it just made a loud PFFFfffff.... it had ripped a big hole into my tire and tube. It was a good decision to take the road bikes - the ease of it! Practically no maintenance apart from that one puncture. And it also meant we could start our training as soon as we went out the door and didn't have to drive to trails (we also didn't need to rent a car).

Lighthouse at Maspalomas, Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria really is the place to go for cycling training in the winter. It's only a few hours from any European airport and accommodation is very reasonably priced, especially if you weren't as posh as us requiring Internet. And the weather is just perfect, with temperatures between 16-20 degrees at sea level (6-8 degrees on top of the mountain) and sunshine and blue skies all day round (for the most part and depending on which side of the island you cycle on). We even did some pro-cyclist spotting, I tried to hang on to JB Junior from the Astana team one day and Ryan spotted the German Albgold team with my competition Katrin Schwing and the Subaru/Gary Fisher team training together. We both actually saw loads of cyclists, pros and leisure.

Beach at Maspalomas, Gran Canaria

The apartment in which we stayed, Atico 3, was also really suitable for our needs: a small and simple but very comfortable place in Vecindario - with free ADSL Internet connection (that was our most important pre-requisite because both Ryan and I had to keep on working from there). The price was also very reasonable, especially since we had a two-bedroom apartment for 4-6 people all for ourselves :). The German hosts very both very nice and helpful. Definitely a place to keep in mind in case we want to come back!

Jeez, it just started raining again. Today it has just been pouring with only a few breaks of no rain (but still clouds of course). I am really considering relocating to Gran Canaria for the winter.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Some of you know I am using a Garmin for my tracking my cycles. I think it's one of the greatest training aids there is (apart from your bike of course), especially if you are a bit of a geek and like analyzing your rides afterwards or compare them with rides you've done before.

I used to have a Garmin Edge 305, but recently upgraded to a Garmin Edge 705. The 705 has a bigger screen, longer battery live, colour, a very useful joystick and better zoom in and out functions and full mapping. It also integrates with wireless power meters, which is important for Ryan.

The Garmin Edge 705

The thing that I really find useful, however, is the new mapping feature. Especially since we are here in Gran Canaria, where we didn't know any of the roads, it has come in very useful. The other really cool thing is to be able to download pre-defined routes onto the Garmin and then just follow these with your virtual training partner. You will never need a cumbersome foldable paper map any more!

The software I'm using to create my cycles beforehand is the Route Creator on Bike Route Toaster. It's free and really simple to use and when you create your routes it even calculates the ascent data for you and shows the elevation profile. You will also need to install the Garmin Communicator plugin on your computer to be able to upload courses to the Garmin. Then you just need to export the file to your Garmin.

And if it turns out you overestimated your strength a little bit and want to cut your route short, you can use the "find back to start" function on the Garmin to find the fastest way back to your start location. You can of course purchase maps from Garmin, which are of pretty good quality, but there's also loads of free maps available online which are really useful.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I was hoping this wouldn't happen....

... but it did. I've become sick. I knew that I was at risk after that cold incident on my first day here, but I had hoped I'd be spared the consequences, but now I've got a full blown cold. And not only that, I've also got a stomach bug. And that while I'm in a warm country where I could do loads of training in the sun! Well, at least I've got the two things at the one time, rather than one after the other...

I still went on my ride today, but I felt so crap that the expected 3hour long ride took me 3.5hours. I couldn't put out any power and my heart rate wasn't very responsive either. So I slogged up the mountain and back home. I probably should have cut my ride short or not gone at all. Felt really crap after my ride. And unfortunately I had to do some college stuff after my ride and couldn't just go to bed.

Ah well, rest day for me tomorrow :-/

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Missed the first time round....

Today I did approximately the same ride as on the first day, the day it was sooo cold on the descent and rained on the top. So it was the same way up and down, but with an added 20km loop on the top. So the total for the ride was 120km long, 2700m climb and it took me 5h 25min to complete it.

This time round however the weather was fantastic and we could finally see the stunning views from up there - it seemed like a totally different ride!

I think the town at the bottom is Las Palmas.

View from the top view point. The first time round I hadn't even realized that I had passed a viewpoint!

Nice beautiful switchback roads in the drop of the middle of the island.

You can even see Tenerife from the top!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Active recovery in the sun :)

Oh my god, it is so much easier to go out riding when it's warm and the sun is shining. Today was the first day that Ryan and I went exploring a bit around the area, since the other two days we were just busy with working and cycling. At lunch time we went on a light tootle to the seafront and the weather was just soooo nice! There were even people in bikinis! I haven't seen people in bikinis outside since our trip to Tanzania in 2007.

The town in which we stay, Vecindario, seems to be very quiet though - it's definitely off-season, barely any people around and the atmosphere is really chilled out. Maybe that's also got to do with that the really nice beaches are located more in Las Palmas or Maspalomas. The cycle yesterday lead us through Maspalomas and it was a lot busier there.

Another long ride - such looooong descent!

Well, today it was a lot warmer and the weather was really nice. But this time round I was careful and took some more clothes, so I wouldn't be caught out like yesterday!

The ride today was 120km over the mountains with about 1800m of climb, taking me 5 hours. It was basically 40km uphill, 40km downhill and 40km on the flat. The climb was just fantastic, it was the reverse of the descent from yesterday and I had the camera with me to take some pics. The views were just stunning, so much better than yesterday when the mountains were covered in mist and clouds!

Also, yesterday I didn't see a single cyclist in the mountains and already started doubting Ryan that Gran Canaria was a cyclist's heaven. Now I think they were just smart enough to avoid the mountains in the bad weather, because today the mountain was teeming with cyclists! I only saw one on the climb, but I saw tons on that super long switchback descent. They all seemed to be going the other way round the mountain though. Later on I found out why.

After an hour or so of descending the steep switchbacks in nice warm weather and wearing a bit more clothing, I arrived back at the seaside. From here it was 40m flatish home. And here it was were it hit me. I mean where the wind hit me. I had a head wind for almost all of the ride home, with the worst and most exposed bit for the last 20km. Jeez, this almost felt like that ride in Tanzania. I was wrecked when I arrived home. Rest day tomorrow!

Monday, January 12, 2009

First ride on GC - climb climb climb

Wow, so yesterday I went on my first ride on GC, 105km, 2900m climb. The spin started with a flat 6km before the ascent started for about 54km. 54km of climbing in one go!!

When I started it was nice and warm at the bottom (a comfortable 19 degrees), but it got colder with the height and it was actually really cold on top of the mountains and in addition it rained!! Just like Ireland. And here's of course where I made my first beginner's mistake.

Even though our landlord told us it can get quite cold at the top, especially in the clouds and rain, I went off just with one flimsy jersey and arm warmers and a rain jacket in my pocket - hey, I'm on Gran Canaria, it's supposed to be warm! Well, it was fine until I got drenched wet (about 2 hours into the climb) and I was totally freezing cold with numb hands on the top. At least I was climbing until the 60km mark, so that kept me at least reasonably non-hypothermic. However, each long climb here is followed by a long descent. I was already drenched wet and wearing all of my clothes, and I was cold, but now I was to go downhill for 45km without generating any heat.

About 10min into the descent I started shivering. And it got worse and worse, so bad I couldn't stop my teeth from clattering and I almost started loosing control over the bike because my arms were shivering so badly! Now I understand why the guys in the Tour de France stuff newspapers into their jersey for the descents! I think I've actually felt colder than this before, but I've never shivered as bad as this before. I stopped a few times trying to warm up. And this descent seemed to just go on forever! I was relieved to finally see the sea and then it wasn't long till home. At least my clothes were almost dry when I arrived home again....

I never thought I would despise road descents as much as this. I used to love them when I wasn't a cyclist. Hmm ;(

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Coming out of hibernation....

Soooo, this is my first blog in the new year and my first blog in, uhm, a long long time. So, what have I been up to in the last 3 months?

Well, first of all I've started a PhD. This unfortunately since this year involves courses, and one of these is taught on Saturdays, so that is a bit of a pain. But I took most of October off anyway, so I could slowly get used to this new and changed situation.

Then there was November. Nothing much happened in November (at least I can't really remember, time just flew by!), but I started training again. Nothing major, just getting back out on the bike and ride around, so I could still have a life and be social. Oh, and I went to some conferences for my PhD.

In December I did the same, but then there was Christmas and I spent a week in Germany with my family in Bavaria. Now, that was cool, because for Xmas I got to go skiing with them! So we went skiing not once, not twice, but a whole three times when I was there! It was so much fun and I think it helps me overcome my fast downhill descending fear, you should have seen how fast I went down those mountains!! (thank god there is no proof of those 3-year olds when they overtook me ;)).

I did a bit of running there, because ice isn't very nice to cycle on and running just keeps you warmer. So we went skiing in the morning (isn't it great having a brother living near the mountains :P), I went running in the afternoon (16.4km) , skiing again next morning and then running again in the afternoon (22.3km). Ok, I did take the third day off.

With the new year the college work began again. Projects, assignments, papers etc.

But all is not so bad, because I just relocated to Gran Canaria for the next two weeks for some warm weather training (those arctic temperatures in Ireland didn't really do it for me, although the trails were frozen-cement-bone-dry and fantastic to ride, so fast and so flowy, as long as your toes didn't freeze off). I'll put up a post about my amazing rides in GC soon. Now I've got to do some college work.