Final preparations for the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon

By Cycling Dad:

Only three days to go until the first main event of the season – the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon! Up until around two weeks ago, training took up most of my available time next to job and family. In July, I spent roughly 18-20 hours per week in the saddle, which kept me from blogging as much as I originally planned. Alex and I took turns in looking after the kids. Once I got home, she went out for her training – or vice versa. Since getting back on the bike post-partum, she spent roughly as much time as me on the road. It is a bit difficult, but manageable somehow. I also will have to keep this post short, as either one of the kids seems to be constantly coming up with a new issue. When I started this post two hours ago, Konstantin was pushing his toy excavator across the keyboard. Right now he is in his bed, (still) screaming at the top of his lungs, defying sleep… thanks for bearing with me… Anyways, the main training is done and all that’s left to do is final preparations. Time for a quick recap.

Since the beginning of the season, I cycled around 8,500k and climbed a cumulative 72,000m in altitude gain. As part of the preparation, I raced in Moerbisch, Feldbach, Bad Kleinkirchheim, Berlin, Mondsee and Hohenems (the last two race reports are still missing due to the above mentioned obstacle…). While distance and altitude gain increased from event to event, I could equally feel my fitness increasing. I managed to finish the last event, the ‘Highlander’ Cycle Marathon in Hohenems with 187k and 4000m alt gain in 7 hours and 41 minutes as 289th out of 589 starters, still feeling okay in the end.

On August 8th, the entire Team Alpecin met at Radlabor in Frankfurt for a second performance diagnostics. Three weeks before the Oetztaler, we wanted to find out how much the training over the summer had improved our performance potential. One by one, we took to the SRM ergometer and completed the threshold test. Here’s me closing in on max power:

Without going too much into the details, the long endurance miles paid off – I should be able to tackle all climbs of the Oetztaler with a 230 watt average load. In theory, this should give me a chance to finish the distance below ten hours – but the weather forecast is not too good and a lot of things can happen along the way.

If you are interested to follow my progress online this Sunday, August 25th on the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon – you can sign up for an SMS alert service on the website http://www.oetztaler-radmarathon.com – just click on the red button “Starting List” and yet again in the next window the red button “SMS Service”. My bib number will be 556.

As a kind reminder – I am running a fundraiser for the SOS children’s village in Hinterbrühl near Vienna, Austria. Your donations will be used to build three new houses, where abandoned children will be able to grow up in a loving family environment. A big thank you goes to all my supporters. Here’s the link to the donation site: http://bit.ly/13RGhCl

Performance Diagnostics | Functional Threshold Test at Radlabor Munich

By Cycling Dad:

Earlier this year, I hit jackpot as I was selected to become one of the amateur riders to the 2013 Team Alpecin. Part of the team package is a professional performance diagnosis and training plan from Radlabor (the Cycling Lab). Radlabor is a spin-off from the University of Freiburg’s sports faculty, which offers diagnostics and coaching for recreational, amateur and professional cyclists, and a key partner of Team Alpecin. They operate testing facilities in Freiburg, Frankfurt and Munich.

With the help of science, my training for the remaining three months should become much more effective. Unfortunately, I am a bit late to take the test due to professional and family obligations, but in the end a more structured training should help me get through the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and Endura Alpentraum with at least some less suffering…

So on May 10th I took a day trip to visit Sophie Fleischer at the Munich lab. Sophie was already looking forward to punching my ears with needles for the lactate test.

Here is an inside look at the Radlabor’s Munich testing facility. It is compact in size, but everything you need to push yourself over the lactate threshold is there, including a top-notch SRM ergometer.

What happens during a performance diagnosis?

Testing procedures may vary between testing locations and athletes tested. However, what happens essentially is that someone puts you on a stationary bike and asks you to pedal at a rate of around 90 to 100 revolutions per minute. She then increases the resistance – in this case every three minutes. Resistance is measured in watts per hour, and increased in increments of 20 watts. At the end of every resistance level, a small blood sample is taken and analysed for lactic acid, which is a chemical compound produced by the body from breaking down glucose for releasing power to the muscle tissues. It is a complex process and I have to point to specific resources for explaining the details. However, when lactate is produced faster than the tissues can remove it, the lactate concentration in the blood begins to rise. Sports scientists use the lactic acid concentration as an indicator of fatigue in the athlete’s body. The so-called lactate threshold marks the level up to which an athlete can metabolise the lactic acid that is created under effort while it is produced. Beyond the lactate threshold, lactic acid starts to accumulate, which leads to fatigue and eventually forces the body to recovery. It will let you know gently, once you reach that point…

What does a performance diagnostic look like? Well, it’s not pretty. Send the kids out of the room before you watch the following video ;) .

Here is what the results look like: Radlabor Leistungsdiagnostik (click to download PDF). You receive a detailed report, outlining all the data from the threshold test. Unfortunately this document is in German, but Iet me summarise the most important information.

The following chart shows, by column: effort (watts), relative effort (watts per kilogram body weight), heart rate, lactic acid concentration, energy consumption per hour.

Upon applying cycling-specific calculations from sports research, my functional threshold was at 207 watts (2.5 watts per kilo) and a heart rate of 144 beats per minute. The diagnosis software estimated that my maximum rate of oxygen metabolisation is 4.7 litres per minute, which puts my relative VO2max per minute and kilogram body weight at circa 57 millilitres. My maximum effort was 360 watts, but I could only keep this for around 90 seconds. This places me among the top 25% of all athletes tested in my age group on Radlabor’s testing software Ergonizer - across all sports disciplines. Sounds quite good, but when looking specifically at cyclists, my results place me in the 15% percentile. This means that 85% of all cyclists who completed the test have a higher anaerobic threshold per kilogram body weight. I console myself by the thought that performance diagnosis today still is used to a large extend by professional athletes. It is okay to be better than only  15% of the pros ;) . MTN Qhubeka’s Gerald Ciolek for example managed to average roughly 400 watts over almost 12 minutes on the Cipressa Climb of Milan-San Remo 2013, for which I will admire him eternally. Also, in the same race Gerald achieved a mind-boggling 1386 watt effort on his race-winning sprint, while the test in Munich pegs me at roughly 625 watts maximum sprinting potential. For more details, check out this interesting post.

Back to the test. From the results, individual training heart rate zones can be derived. These will be important when drafting the athlete’s training plan. Based on my results, mine are: (KB = Active Recovery, GA1 = Endurance, GA2 = Tempo, EB = Threshold – the second column is effort in watts and the third refers to the heart rate zones)

Here’s another interesting graph from the report, showing the lactic acid build-up over time (lower-hand black line) in relation to the effort spent (x-axis) and the heart rate (y-axis).

At 206.5 watts, I reached my (anaerobic) lactate threshold at roughly 59% of my maximum sustained effort 350 watts. As Sophie explained to me, with appropriate training I should be able to delay the buildup of lactic acid up to 80% of my maximum effort, which would give me roughly 280 watts before reaching the lactate threshold. This is the recipe for significantly improving performance in the long-distance marathons.

Shortly after I returned to Vienna, Team Alpecin trainer Tim Böhme from Radlabor Frankfurt called me up to discuss my personal training plan. Based on the results of the threshold test and my personal time constraints, he assembled a training plan which contains a lot of long-distance endurance rides in June and some interval sessions, which will gradually increase in July as we move closer to the main events Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and Endura Alpentraum. The training plan is online (screenshot above) and requires me to feed back my training information at least on a weekly basis. From the heart rate information collected, the system calculates time spent in the different training zones and presents the results in summary overviews. According to this information and personal feedback, adjustments will be made by Tim. Also, there is an option to conduct another test in August to evaluate progress made and determine the perfect pace for both races.

Perfect preparation for the marathons to come!

Back to sports eight weeks after delivery – serious cycling on the Nockalm Road

By Spinning Mum:

Wohooo! I am back on track :) And a lot has happened during the past few weeks, so let me share my plans and experiences with you.

After a bunch of early morning sessions and several long rides on the weekends I am now officially back in the saddle and my new playmate – the oh so racy BMC RM01 I got late last year – won’t collect any more dust hanging on our bedroom wall. Instead it will be seen in it’s natural habitat a lot these days since I giddily signed up for my first cycle marathons ever after I came home from my first 100+ km tour this season.

Shortly after the endorphins wore off I was close to admitting myself to a mental institution for making such a lightheaded decision. But by then the admission fee was already paid for and I told myself that if I can run a mountain marathon with only two weeks of half-assed training on the treadmill, I might as well survive the ~60km routes of the Carinthia Cycle Marathon this month and the Garmin Velothon in June.

With only a few days left, I am currently using every minute I can spare to prepare myself for these ordeals. So let’s see if my plan works out…

The good thing about the baby alarm which by now goes off almost precisely at 04:30 a.m. is, that I am all geared up and ready to hit the road for two hours around fivish which surprisingly does not bother me all too much. In fact, I really enjoy the peace and quiet knowing that Kai is dealing with the daily morning madness of getting both kids dressed and fed. If you have young kids too, you know that this could be a bigger challenge than riding a Dutch bicycle with two flat tires. Especially now that Konstantin is walking and enjoying his newfound independence, the difficulty level of putting him into fresh nappies is comparable to catching a salmon with bare hands.

But seriously, taking turns in using the early morning hours to work out enables both of us to squeeze in some training no matter what the day will bring, e.g. long office hours (5 out of 7 nights); the feeling of being at the edge of a nervous breakdown due to a cranky toddler who is trying to use his new teeth on your big toe whilst you are comforting a querulous newborn and thus almost accidentally prepare the family hamster for dinner (2 out of 7 nights) or simply the fact that it is raining cats and dogs outdoors and the bad weather bike is locked miiiiiles away in the basement (luckily a less frequent sensation)… ;)

So, what shall I say… heading towards the sunrise on top of a high-class racer, iPod in ear, just feels awesome and allows me to gather the energy I need in order to take care of the kids, manage the household, get a bit of freelance work done and – if I am lucky – write a blog post in the hours to come.

On the weekends Kai and I usually have to split up if we want to get some serious training. While one of us is holding the fort (or playground) the other can go for a long ride. Unfortunately, family time is therefore limited to the mealtimes and evenings but we will certainly put our Chariot to use regularly for trips at a lower intensity like we did the other day.

Another idea to spend quality time together in the future would be to define a nice destination for a day or weekend trip, mount the bike rack, pack the kids and take turns riding and driving along the way. We did not actually try this yet, but I believe that the Live Track function of my Garmin Edge 810 will ensure that that the rest of the family has an instant update about when to leave home in order to arrive at the designated venue roughly at the same time or where to pick up a totally exhausted spinning mum :)

So, as you can see you do not necessarily have to be a superhero to control the catch-22 situation of spending time with your family and participating in a time consuming sport. However, being with a supportive partner who (ideally shares your interests) helps you to check the tire pressure and to prepare the kids’ breakfast the night before, helps tremendously ;)

Initially, I wanted to write about my first training sessions and improvements throughout the my first four weeks of training at this point, but as usual, it took me almost a decade to finish this article and I do not want to bore you with endless statistics, while I have a much more interesting story to share:

Currently we are staying in the region where the Carinthia Cycle Marathon is going to take place next weekend, which enables us to get used to the altitude and to check out the routes. On this account I had the chance to ride the renowned Nockalm Road, which is part of the long marathon route, Kai is about to master.

Actually, I did not plan to engage in some serious climbing lunacy when we got here, as I wanted to save my power for the actual race on Sunday, but after Kai went for a training ride along this legendary pass road and came home totally exhausted but also loaded with endorphins I couldn’t resist trying to tackle it myself.

As mentioned, the Live Track function of my Garmin would enable Kai to come to my rescue anytime in case my legs would explode, so I had nothing to loose and started my epic journey early this morning in rainy weather from our holiday home close to the Turracher Höhe.

I was shortly considering to chicken out as I was not eager to ride steep descends and hairpin-bends on wet tarmac and was already peeing my pants anyways because I was scared of my weaker self. After all, I have never tried anything like this before. But in for a penny, in for a pound… Jaunty Spinning Mum had a mission to complete!

So, I left the warm and cozy cottage and had to start climbing right away in order to get to the beginning of the Nockalm Road. Getting there was already a little adventure itself since after a short 12% warm up climb a steep and winding descend of 24% led me to the actual starting point of today’s torture. What a dreadful but exciting experience! I couldn’t help but scream when the digits on my speedometer passed 75 km/h.

Luckily the rain stopped when I arrived at the actual starting point legs still shaking with fear. After a quick glance on the steep road in front me, I was literally asking myself what the hell I was doing. But since I was also shivering from the downhill airstream I thought it might be a good idea to brace up and start to sweat. And hey, I was really curious to find out why so many riders talk about the Nockalm Road in awe.

The first few kilometers were not as bad as I initially thought but once I passed the toll booth an average gradient of 10% led me up to the first summit and I was counting the serpentines to the top. I do not know how often I was screaming along these seemingly endless 12 km – at first because my legs were burning later because it started snowing shortly before I reached the first crest. WTF! Wearing shorts and leaving the leg warmers behind was not a good idea I suppose and suddenly it occured to me why the guy who came down the road wrapped up like an Eqyptian mummy gave me funny looks.

With chattering teeth I did not take the time to enjoy the scenery and just quickly gobbled up my first Squeezy Bar before I started my descend. A glance on my Garmin told me that the temperatures dropped to freezing 0 degrees Centigrade. Apparently these conditions were even too harsh for the marmots to leave their dens. Damn! Seeing some of these adorable little critters was one the main pull factors getting me up here.

Here’s a picture of what I did not see:

But only minutes later I had different things to worry about: the snow changed to hale (ouch!) and the airstream was numbing every uncovered bit of my body. Believe me, by now I was cursing and swearing aloud and I had to stop half way through the descend because I could not feel my fingers anymore and pulling the brakes became almost impossible. I can’t remember that I ever felt so cold before.

Thank god, the weather slowly improved and when I entered the second ascend I was feeling a bit less miserable. To my surprise I still wasn’t fully recovered when I reached the second summit though my heart rate went up to 175 bpm and the last few meters to the top were really challenging. But the Sufferfest decal saying ‘IWBMATTKYT’ (I will beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow) I put on my top tube gave me the much needed motivation though my legs were burning and there was no lower gear left. And now guess what? Reaching the second last bend before the top, it started snowing again! As the marmots still were nowhere to be seen, I did not bother to sojourn at the top. Scared of slippery road conditions I quickly munched another energy bar trying not to look too jealous at two fellow maniacs with a support vehicle providing them with warm clothes. Lucky bastards!

Although the hailstorm failed to appear this time I had to pause the otherwise really nice descent again in order to defrost. And though I really wanted to complete the same route Kai finished the day before, I could not resist to ask him to pick me up. Freezing terribly and shaking like a leaf I continued my journey for another 10km after leaving the Nockalm Road until I hit the wall due to insufficient food intake. Thankfully Kai arrived just in time and found me the very same moment I decided to collapse on a bench on the wayside.

This is the point where I just did not want to go any further:

Looks as if Kai was speeding here a little too much before :)

Well, maybe I did not find out if I could have finished Kai’s route this time, but I am certain that I could have performed better if I would have watched my food intake and if I would have dressed wisely (lessons learned!), but I am extremely proud that I survived the Nockalm Road – which leaves me with a total of roughly 60km and a total altitude gain of 1,900m – just eight weeks after Johanna was born.

Guess, now that I know what I am capable of and survived all possible stages of freezing (freezing from anxiety, freezing from cold and freezing from exhaustion), I do not have to be scared of the upcoming events anymore… So, bring it on!

Team Alpecin 2013 Training Camp in Mallorca

By Cycling Dad:

Earlier this year, I hit jackpot as I got selected as one of the amateur riders to join Team Alpecin for one cycling season. So far, I received a bike worth more than I would ever have on my bank account, a professional bike fitting and support along the entire way to the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon in August and Endura Alpentraum in September.

This post is about the next goodie on the seemingly endless list of benefits for the chosen few. As part of the 2013 Team Alpecin package, I had a chance to spend one week in April along with eleven other lucky team riders at the Robinson Club Cala Serena on Mallorca. Mallorca is the largest island of the Spanish Balearic Islands archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea and has a reputation for being the Eldorado for road cyclists from all over Europe, because of its climate and diverse topography. After one week of riding on this beautiful island, I must agree. You’ll see why – but let’s start at the beginning of the trip.

You would not necessarily have to bring your own bike to Mallorca. There are dozen of rental stations all over the island that rent out everything from beginner’s to current high-end models. As a member of the 2013 Team Alpecin however, of course I wanted to bring the team bike along ;) .

As I did not travel a lot by air with my bike so far, I had to get some sort of transport box first. There are tons of choices available, but I figured the easiest thing to do would be to rent one from the local bike shop. In my case, I rented an EVOC bike travel bag from Bernhard Kohl’s bike store in Vienna. Time for a mini-review:

The EVOC is a huge soft-shell bag on wheels with reinforcements in strategic locations to protect your bike from impact during transport. You essentially have to take off the saddle, the pedals, rear derailleur, handlebar and take out the wheels. The wheels are secured in two separate compartments on the side of the bag, again with paddings and special reinforcements. It took me less than 30 minutes to get the bike disassembled and packed into the bag. As there still was a lot of space left in the bag, I also packed all my regular check-in baggage to the bike bag. Nice!

I took the Air Berlin Tuesday noon flight from Vienna to Palma de Mallorca and arrived to blue skies and 25 degrees temperature. What a bliss after a long, cold and dark winter! Mallorca, here I come!

It took a bit of waiting at the baggage claim, but after an hour or so the bike finally arrived. Next, I met Kei Uwe, my roommate for the week, at the airport. Before coming to Mallorca, we already worked out a nifty model for the rest of the day that would allow us to save money (airport shuttle would have cost 60 EUR per person) and spend time on the bike at the same time. Here’s how. First, we rented a car for half a day. Then we went to the hotel to assemble the bikes, drop off the bike boxes and change into cycling gear. We then headed back to the airport to return the car, taking the bikes with us. The ride back to the hotel already got us 70k on the very first day. The transfer set us back by 30 EUR in total expenses. Not bad.

We arrived to the hotel a bit late, immediately plundered the buffet and got to bed. The days ahead would be packed with activities!

I felt a bit guilty, as I lay there in the big hotel bed – slowly sinking into a restful sleep. Everything was quiet around me. My last thoughts were with Alex, who was struggling alone with our lively toddler Konstantin and newborn Johanna at home. Live is not fair.

Before I left, Alex reminded me time and again that I owe her a favor from this day. The day would come, and no matter what the request, I would have to grant her this favor. She seemed pretty serious about that… ah well, for now – good night world ;) .

8 hours of deep, deep sleep. Again, I woke up feeling a bit guilty thinking about the family at home. I made a short call to Alex. Her night was horrible. Both kids conquered the bed and gave her a tough night. Check out H is for Hell, provided by HowToBeADad.com for a remote visual reference… Alex then told me the fifth time that the day will come when she’ll ask me that one favor. Whatever it is… has to be done… shudder…

I decided to make the best of the current situation and joined Kei Uwe for breakfast. We met quite a few of the last few year’s riders at the buffet, who have been invited to come along from the team managers. Sort of a Team Alpecin Alumni Club! We also met our Sportive Director Jörg Ludewig and former Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich. Wow, what a start – we were completely starstruck!

At first we were expecting being introduced to the harsh dietary prescription of a cycling team in training camp. But there’s nothing further from that. Yes, there were epic tales of hunger during training camp from the former pros, including hotel room raids for hidden snacks and athletes eating directly from the buffet so that the team coaches could not count the calories. But at the same time Jan and Lude stunned us with their healthy appetites. We decided to join then and shuttled to and fro the buffet tables. The food at Robinson Club was absolutely amazing and I think I can proudly claim to have overeaten on every single meal that followed during the week. As it would later turn out, the training camp cost me 2 kilos on the scale… but it was worth it ;) .

After breakfast we got ready and went for a first ride with the team and our special guest Jan Ullrich. What an experience, riding next to him and chatting along. I can confirm that Jan is an all-around normal guy, apart maybe from his supernatural cycling talent. I am sure that even without any training he would be able to beat me up in any race.

The rest of the team arrived in the meantime, so I finally got the chance to get to know everybody. They assembled their bikes after lunch and we went on another group ride that same afternoon. We only covered roughly 40k, in order to get everyone acquainted to the new conditions. Time flew, as we rode and chatted the afternoon away. Soon, we were back at the hotel, got fresh, had a huge dinner and our first daily team meeting. The team management introduced us to our trainers Tim Böhme and Stefan Zelle from Radlabor.de along with the schedule for the coming days. During the first two days, there would not be much time for riding as we’d be busy taking pictures for RoadBIKE magazine and other media outlets. The rest of the week would be free for longer rides, a visit to the RoadBIKE festival in Playa de Muro and technical training. Happy and overeaten, we retired to our rooms and were looking forward to the next days like kids before their first day of school.

The third day started with another novum. Probably as a result of watching our eating habits, our trainers decided that we all needed to strengthen our core muscles. This was most likely in order to keep us from bursting apart after another sumptuous meal. Our trainers Tim and Stefan showed us some basic positions for strengthening the core body muscles and we followed their moves. We would repeat this early morning activity almost every day of the training camp. Needless to say that most of us were rewarded with sores from our neglected core muscles. However, professional experience and anecdotal evidence from the hobby athletes shows that well trained core muscles will be a key success factor during our epic ten-hour rides during the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and the Endura Alpentraum Transalp Cycle Marathon.

As announced during the team meeting, we spent third and fourth day of the training camp with photo shootings. Unfortunately I can’t post the professional photos as they are not released yet. But I can assure you that they look stunning. They will be used in the upcoming RoadBIKE Magazine articles, and maybe I will be able to share them all with you in a few months. In any case, we had tons of time to enjoy the sunshine and hang out.

During the entire time, we were extremely well taken care of by our sponsors. Not only were we dressed head to toe in the finest Assos clothing, riding the 2013 Specialized S-Works Venge on devilish Lightweight Meilenstein Obermayer wheels, but there was also a seemingly unlimited supply of Squeezy Sports Nutrition to be consumed at will. Great stuff – I’ll post a detailed review soon.

Also, we had a team of world-class bike mechanics from Lightweight on service to help us make all final adjustments on our bikes and overhaul the bikes on first sign of wear. The mechanics service was also offered to the team Alpecin riders of the previous years who joined us during the training camp. It was absolutely splendid, and I need to take a moment to give a huge personal thank you to our team mechanics Oliver and Daniel. You guys are magicians on the wrenches ;) !

Once the photo sessions were done, we spent the rest of the training camp with some long rides that mainly focused on building base endurance. However, we also spent a few climbing sessions on Puig Sant Salvador, which is a large, beautiful hill in the South of the island with guesthouse-turned ancient monastery on top.

The road leading to the top is stunningly beautiful and first meanders through pine forest before giving a view across the island and the Mediterranean Sea.

The trainers introduced us to various interval training techniques and practiced fast descending with us, which was fun and gave everyone insights into ways how to safely improve the speed downhill. It was amazing to watch Jörg Ludewig taking on tight turns at high speeds, using skills honed in countless pro races. Also, we had a celebrity commentator with us as sprinter legend Marcel Wüst stopped by to share some of his wisdom with us.

On Friday, April 19th we went on one of our longest rides – 150k from Cala Serena to the RoadBIKE Festival in Playa de Muro and back through the heart of Mallorca. The scenery along the way was stunning and we rode in three large groups with a lot of the previous years’ Team Alpecin members. Jan Ullrich again joined this ride and there was a chance for everybody to have a picture taken next to him.

The RoadBIKE festival itself is a three-day, pop-up consumer fair right in the heart of Playa de Muro, one of the (Geman-speaking) cycling tourism hotspots on Mallorca. The big tour operators like Max Hürzeler Cycling Holidays have their main bases here. Some of the big brands in cycling give consumers a chance to experience their products first hand here, including Specialized, Sigma, Continental, Squeezy and Canyon to name but a view. Also, visitors have a chance to meet cycling stars first hand, including Eric Zabel and of course Jan Ullrich. It is quite a nice event, but what I found stunning (also considering that I am running an Austrian-based, English-language blog) was the fact that all communication on site was conducted in German. No sign of English or Spanish whatsoever. I wonder how many non-German speakers were lost along the way.

The rest of the week in the training camp brought more long rides, and a chance to enjoy the amenities of the Robinson club, including a splendid wellness area and the beautiful coastline. This place must be great for swimming during summer, but at this time of the year still was a bit chilly…

Also, there was a glitch in the secret cover-up operations of the secret billionaire lifestyle of a certain Swiss member of our team. The crew brought the yacht too close to the shoreline, so the rest of the team could catch a glimpse and establish the logical association to the owner. As a result, we all received personal invitations to his royal mansion in Switzerland for high-altitude training. We’re all looking forward to it, Matthias Count of Niederhäuser ;) !

For those of you who made it all the way to the end of this extremely long post, here’s a special goodie for you – a short video sum-up of some of our rides. It gives you the chance to experience parts of the training camp from the participant’s point of view. We had an amazing time. I would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all our sponsors and supporters, and of course our families at home who missed one week with their dads, husbands or girlfriends.

P.S.: I started writing this post on April 16. The date of publishing, today, is May 13. In other words, it took me almost a month to finish this post – a striking evidence of the challenge to manage family, profession, training and blogging next to each other. No wonder that there aren’t that many bike bloggers around. To those of you who can manage everything at the same time, here’s my respect and deep appreciation. You guys rock!

Early morning workout for Cycling Parents

By Cycling Dad:

With two kids to look after, finding time for a workout has become more difficult. Essentially, every activity involving the children seems to take at least twice as much time as before. Alex is doing a great job taking care of Johanna and Konstantin, but I want to be there to support her on weekdays at least in the mornings and in the evenings, getting the kids ready for the day and ready for bed. So in order to be able to keep cycling, one has to be creative.

Bang! Wednesday morning, 5.22am. Cycling Dad sporting Lycra again, getting ready for a two-hour workout before getting the kids ready and heading to work. This shall be an experiment to figure out whether super-early workouts can be a viable option to get in some mileage during the week.

Johanna has kept us up more or less the whole night, demanding a fresh bottle of milk roughly every two hours. Her screaming then usually wakes up Konstantin, who figures that he might as well ask for a bottle. Today is an exception, and the sibblings’ wish for a lift to the big bed was granted.

Aren’t they adorable? It’s really difficult to leave the family behind in the warm bed, when you feel like curling up next to them and getting in an extra hour of sleep…

First stop before getting the bike ready was the kitchen. I picked up some easy to digest food – bananas, white bread and multi fruit juice. Coffee would’ve been nice, but I was eager to hit the road…

I left the house in complete darkness, using an excellent set of USB-chargeable Blackburn head and taillights (will post the review soon). Already around 6am, the sun already started to dawn. Paradoxically, watching sun dawns while riding my bike reminds me of a few memorable days in the summer of ’96, when I used to come home in the mornings after parties. Only that this time I wasn’t drunk :) .

The ride was beautiful, with birds singing all around and hardly any traffic on the roads. I even spotted a couple of deers right next to the road. However, in the absence of sunshine, this was one of the coldest rides this season. Make sure you dress warmly!

I rode for one hour and 50 minutes, 46k, covered 540m in elevation gain, burned through a bit more than 1000 kcal and arrived at work feeling fresh around 8.30 am. Not bad at all, especially considering that this would have been a week without any riding on weekdays. The experiment worked out. Super-early morning rides can be one component of our strategy to stay on the bike as Cycling Parents. Commuting to work by bike is the other. I will try to establish a routine from both shortly.

How about you? Do you go ride early in the morning, or commute to work? Let me know!

 

 

 

 

Exercising after childbirth – when to start and what to obey

By Spinning Mum:

At odd times I actually take my doctor’s advice serious and when I was showing signs of premature labour some weeks ago I really listened to him and forced myself to slow things down a bit. However, it was not until about 4 weeks ago that I totally paused my training for the upcoming weeks.

I am in the middle of week 40 now and miraculously survived 35 days without doing any sports but two sessions on the good old Tacx. Well, hardly survived I have to rephrase since I often feel fretful, ill-tempered and moody these days as I never had problems getting up from the couch or tying my shoes before. Plus, there is also the fact that I am super jealous that Kai has been admitted to Team Alpecin and my cool new BMC’s spot in the bedroom will most likely soon be taken by his S-Works Venge. Not to forget that due to Alpecin’s shampoos and tonics his hair could soon be looking much better than my fluffy postpartum mess. Grump! [Picture some comically drawn potty mouth font expressing my displeasure here.]^^

Come what may. If I might have to accept some hormone-induced hair loss again [Hey Dr. Kurt Wolff, this is your keyword... ;) ] it does not mean that I have to accept all other physical complaints, such as a weak pelvic floor, puppy fat and a flabby belly.

Being as vain as most other woman on the planet, getting my figure and fitness back as fast as possible was already my goal after having Konstantin. After leaving the hospital with our little rascal, I was virtually lacing up my running flats as soon as I closed the clinic door behind me in order to go for a run and test our Chariot on this occasion. Not caring much about postnatal gymnastic because as soon as I could see my feet again, I felt strong and ready to start where I had stopped before.

Big mistake…! Since my pelvic floor was still far too weak to keep up with high impact sports, I had to plan my jogging route around public toilets if I did not want to put one of Konsta’s nappies on. Luckily my ingenuousness did not cause any permanent damage and recovery yoga lessons paired with some cycling and low intensity training at the gym got me the results I was wishing for in no time. Nevertheless, this time around I did my homework and started some research about exercising after childbirth as I do not want to buy diapers for three family members in the future :)

So, here is what I learned from my doctor, midwife and various books and webpages.
However, please note that every pregnancy, delivery and body is different and the following advice and suggestions do not make up for an extensive consultation from a medical professional.

1. Being patient is the biggest challenge - Allow yourself the time to heal

Loosing weight and feeling at ease with their post baby bodies is on top of the mind of most young mums. But you have to remember that even if it is the most natural thing on earth to give birth, it is still very demanding and puts a lot of stress on the body – especially if perineal tear occurred or a C-section was unavoidable. The good news is, that does not mean you cannot start working on your abdomen soon after leaving the labour ward.
After you have been given green light from your doc, midwife or nurse, kick it off with doing regular Kegel exercises as they will support your recovery by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles which in turn influence many different body functions including a strong bladder and a good posture. Doing Kegels is fairly easy and you can do them anytime and anywhere, e.g. when nursing your baby or whilst taking a shower. Simply take a deep breath and when you exhale, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as if you want to stop the flow of urine and hold it for five seconds before you let go again as you inhale. Repeat these contractions about five to 10 times. After your lochia has stopped, you might want to try some pelvic floor trainers commonly known as Ben Wa or love balls. Don’t be embarrassed :) There are a couple of really sophisticated ones on the market, such as the pelvic weight set “Ami” by Je Joue or Fun Factory’s “Teneo” smartballs, which are carried at a lot of drug stores and respectable online shops.

2. Start with some light activities once you feel ready

…And I mean light. Though I know how hard it can be to stay patient, you will have to remember that slow and steady wins the race. Depending on whether you had a vaginal birth or a Cesarian, regular half-hourly to hourly walks with the pram, yoga and pilates are the most recommended post-partum activities and can be picked up right after your follow-up examination and consultation at your gynaecologist’s which normally will be scheduled about four to six weeks of your delivery. The good thing is, that a lot of hospitals and other institutions offer classes especially for mothers and babies, so that you can take your little squaller along and benefit from meeting and chatting to other mums. Moreover, you can include most of the exercises you will be taught to strengthen your core and abdominal muscles, such as pelvic tilts, glute bridges and leg slides, into your daily routine for even faster results.

3. Let’s get down to business

Depending on your prenatal fitness and your activity level throughout the past nine months, you are now prepared to work out several times a week at a moderate-intensity. Swimming, low-impact aerobics, a turn on the cross trainer and notably cycling are ideal for a smooth start. Start with 30 minutes sessions three times a week and extend your routine once you make progress. Make sure that you stay hydrated, allow for enough recovery and contact your physician if you experience abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding nausea or dizziness. Nowadays a lot of gyms offer child care solutions, so that you can enjoy some me-time without worrying about your little one.
If you are keen on cycling, cross-country skiing, walking or running, I can only recommend to invest in a Chariot instead of a regular stroller. They come with a lot of equipment, e.g. a special baby seat called the Infant Sling, which even allows you to use it as a pushchair for your newborn. [Read more about our experiences with the Chariot Cougar here.]

Last but no least keep in mind that you still have a certain level of the hormone relaxin in your body. During the past nine months its job was to loosen your joints and ligaments in preparation of giving birth. But it can cause the connective tissue to remain soft even months after giving birth. Thus, please be extra careful when you start sports again that put stress on your knees and ankles. Also take care if you were suffering from abdominal separation as it can take some time to heal properly. Crunches and sit-ups have to be avoided until you are fully cured.

This warning passed on there is only one thing left to say: Enjoy your workout and don’t forget to share your personal experiences in the comment section!

Weekend Group Ride

By Cycling Dad:

While Alex and I are still anxiously awaiting the birth of our daughter, I took the chance to go out on a Sunday group ride with my mates from RC Mödling and the notorious “Boschberg-Partie”, a slightly paced, loosely organised ride for amateurs from all over Vienna and Southern Lower Austria that draws members mainly through word of mouth. At this time of the year, the guys and gals still don’t go too fast – but there is already the spirit of competition in the air. Anybody can jump in and out of this group and ride as he or she likes. It’s a great chance to practice paced riding in a pack and a fun way of getting to know the local racing community. If you are interested to join, just leave a comment or send me an email and we’ll go together.

Also, I wanted to try out my latest gizmo – a GoPro Hero 3 action cam. I’ll write a review about it soon, and am really looking forward to using it along with the Team Alpecin activities throughout the summer. Here is what the result looks like. Already better than our first video, but there are still some lessons to be learned. What do you think?

Cycling Parents suffering from vertical video syndrome

By Cycling Dad:

Hey all, just a quick update today. As I began suffering through the Sufferfest videos to prepare for my upcoming reviews, Alex snapped below’s short video of me. Here are the associated Garmin files with the heart rate. I sent the video back to the Sufferlandrian Ministry of Sports and Health for appraisal and received the second video below in reply, along with the diagnosis that we are suffering from vertical video syndrome.
We’ll see a specialist about it, and post better videos in the future. Promise!

 

The Sufferfest

By Cycling Dad

Regular visitors to the Cycling Parents Blog may have already noticed my red-hot passion for turbo trainers and the sensations of seemingly endless training sessions, staring at sitcoms or just at the blank wall, thinking ‘this is not what I signed up for when I picked up cycling as a sport’ or ‘just kill me to make this end’. I despise turbo trainers. They are humiliating contraptions spat out by hell itself. Their sole purpose is to make man suffer.

So far, my strategy of avoiding the turbo trainer and the suffering that comes along with it has not been very successful. I am three months into my preparations for the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon, and have spent hundreds of kilometres on the trainer, suffering. A quick glance out the window at masses of snow gives me a premonition that there will be many more kilometres to follow… so…

I decided that, just as Churchill once said, I shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival. Let there be a Sufferfest! (He didn’t say the later part).

The Sufferfest is a Sufferlandria-based, government-owned broadcast system that claims to make the hardest, most exciting, most get-on-your-bike-and-suffer-your-ass-off cycling training videos in the world. They make these videos as part of a secret training programme for the national cycling team. As Sufferlandria is a poor country, they have to sell their videos online. You can purchase them at affordable prices from the Sufferfest website. Here is a sample of what you get:

 

I applied for the right to abode in Sufferlandria, and was surprised to receive a letter from the King himself. He offered me to review some of the videos and even invited me to become a Knight of Sufferlandria, if I prove worthy. In his letter, the King also disclosed to me that it was the Sufferlandrian government that was there, negotiating with the police in the station after that arrest involving the Porsche, the night club and the box of hamsters. He did not go into details, but told me that he’s glad I got my life back together.

He also included some words of wisdom, which I shall be glad to recite:

- “To live is to suffer. To survive is to find a meaning in the suffering.”
- “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. The most massive characters are seared with scars.”
- “Only through trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened.”
- “A man who fears suffering is already suffering what he fears.”

Amen.

I decided to take on this bonus mission, and will report about my learnings on this blog.

IWBMATTKYT

Cycling for children in need

By Cycling Dad:

As given away by the name of our blog, CyclingParents.com is not only about our love for cycling, but also about our love of having a family. When my wife Alex and I became parents, we knew immediately that we wanted to do something for children who have a less fortunate start into life than our own. We also wanted to see where our contributions are going, so when we learned that there is a SOS Children’s Village very close to where we live, we made the logical connection.

At the peak of the 2013 cycling season in August, I will attempt to finish the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon, covering a distance of 238km and 5,500 meters in altitude gain. For each meter in altitude, I will try to raise one Euro in donations for the SOS Children’s Village in Hinterbruehl, Austria. That’s 5,500 Euro for children in need, and will help me keep focused along the way. I am planning to select one meaningful area for spending the donations together with the Children’s Village, and will write about my experiences along the way in this blog.

Please support me in my endeavour and donate as little or as much as you can spare.
To donate, please click here and follow the instructions on the following pages.
To learn more, please visit http://www.cyclingparents.comhttp://www.sos-childrensvillages.org,  the webpage of the Children’s Village in Hinterbruehl (German) and http://www.oetztaler-radmarathon.com.

Please also share this fundraiser on Facebook, LinkedIn, or simply by talking about it with friends and colleagues over a cup of coffee.

P.S.: Your donations to SOS Children’s Villages are fully tax deductible. All you have to do is submit the banking transaction along with the request for tax credit in your annual tax return.

Thank you!