Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Race - Mt. Hamilton Low Key Hill Climb

Well, I don't usually do much racing during the off-season, but Ryan has been raving about this low key hill climb (LKHC) series in California, timing his flights precariously according to the dates of the races (and winning most of those he managed to do), so when I arrived in California for the first time ever, I could not miss this opportunity to do one (actually the last one of the 2010 series) too.

Mt. Hamilton Observatory

The LKHCs are mass start events up some hill. There are no number plates (you get a little red sticker with a number which you shout out at the finish, similar to the Epic Club races) and announcement of the winner or awards ceremony, no prices, etc. as the name suggests. About 140 (less than usual due to very cold weather) men and women lined up (including a mixed tandem) and after a few words regarding safety and the word "GO" we set off up the hill. I knew from Ryan that the climb would be 29.6km and guesstimated at least an hour and 20min long for me, the women's previous record was 1h 21min, so I knew to take it steady from the start. Thankfully most men did the same and there was no crazy race off. It was important to stick with a fast group though, as the hill climb included two significant descents (about 4km descent after the first 10km climb and about 1.5km descent at the about 17.5km mark).

Mount Hamilton Profile

I managed to stick with the front group (the group Ryan was in!) for the first 10km but it broke up during the first descent. After the descent I tried to work my way up again to the front bunch, but couldn't make it. In the end I stayed with 2 guys that were about my speed. After a while one of the guys dropped back and the other guy and I were ding-donging until we were almost at the top. Then, with about 200m to go we had to take a sharp right-hand turn on a small road up to the Observatory for which I was not prepared and went straight ahead. The other guy (who knew which way to go) took his chance and attacked and came in just ahead of me, grrr! But I finished with a time of 1h 20min, a minute off the previous record. I was first woman and 17th overall! This also meant that I had beaten the existing Strava record and got a T-shirt! I had felt very comfortable on the climb and did not make myself suffer. Needless to say, I am very happy with how my climbing is coming along :)

Last push to the finish line

Ryan won the men's category :). The view from the top was amazing, the sky was clear and the sun was shining, but it was FREEZING COLD with snow lying about in places. I grabbed a few cookies and some juice and my Strava T-shirt and layered up to survive the looooong descent back down.

I also found out later that I was "the top single-climb scoring rider on the day" with the highest points of the season, not bad on a climb that has 2 descents! :)

Results and a report can be found here on the Low Key Hillclimb website.

Wheelsuck!!! (Pic from here)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter training

I know I'm due several blogpost updates, these will come when the Xmas craze and business has quietened down a bit. While not much has been happening on my blog, a lot has happened offline and I'm well into my winter season training. Luckily Ryan and I have been able to spend a good chunk of our long preparatory miles in good(-ish) weather in California so we were able to avoid the first big freeze that kept Ireland in a cold grip. Training over there went very well, warmer weather and good company made the long base rides so much easier and so much fun. I've been on a few group rides with some very good riders and I absolutely loved it! I really can see myself turning pro after my PhD. Even the really hard rides and long tough climbs don't feel that hard when you've got some great people around you pushing you on. But unfortunately our time in California was limited and we both had to return back to Ireland after a few very good training weeks. We were lucky to return when the snow had mostly melted in Ireland and only got stuck in London for 2 hours due to dense fog.

Current view from our bedroom

Anyhow, the fairly mild weather on arrival back home has given way again to the 2nd big freeze. With temperatures of up to -12 degree Celsius, snow and ice, training outside has become dangerous to impossible. I ventured out on my mountain bike once when the weather wasn't too bad and the snow had mostly gone, dressed up like a Michelin (wo-)man in thick layers of clothing and using my new ski gloves and insulated bottles with hot juice (they both worked fantastically!), but wiped out twice on frozen puddles on the mountain. Luckily I could find areas that were rideable, mainly within the forest and it was OK as long as you kept off the open mountain. However, I felt quite restricted in my clothing and reduced dexterity in the ski gloves wasn't helping for the technical bits either. At least I was kept warm till the end.

Saris 300 Pro Indoor Cycle

But anyway, with the snow back and the temperatures colder than our freezer I've decided to stick to training indoors, made possible to the recent, very smart (in hindsight) investment by my cycling husband into a Saris 300 Pro Indoor Cycle. This machine has revolutionized our indoor training. While Ryan claims he's bought it primarily with me in mind (he used to very much dislike using his turbo trainer), we now fight over who can use the machine! It's a really heavy thing and very sturdy and set up or change between Ryan's and my settings is minimal. In addition, it's so quiet that you have to stop outside the door and listen carefully to be able to hear if the other person is actually using it. This is a big plus for me because I was always worried of annoying our neighbours with the noise and vibrations that a conventional turbo trainer creates and so basically prohibiting early morning and late night sessions before. And the best thing: It comes with an inbuilt power meter, so it's possible to have really specific workouts. And Ryan thankfully also invested into a new fan (after battling with the old broken one for a while). So, while indoor training on a stationary machine will never beat the specificity and joys of outdoor training, this is one of the best alternatives I have found.