Race Report – Garmin Velothon Berlin 2013

As on the actual race day, Alex goes first with her race report over the 60k distance. Kai then follows with his race report over the 120k distance. Enjoy, and please let us know if you like this article!

Spinning Mum’s perspective:

On June 9th, 2013 I found myself at the starting line of what initially was supposed to be my cycle marathon debut – the 6th Garmin Velothon Berlin.

When I first heard of this race shortly after Johanna’s birth, I thought that the Velothon would be the perfect kick off event for a roadbike rookie like me. A mainly flat course over 60 kilometres along some of Berlin’s main sights and attractions appeared to be the perfect backdrop to gain some race experience without worrying all too much about speed, technique or elevation.

With hindsight however I am glad that the Velothon was not my first race and that I was able to gain some experience during the Carinthia Cycle Marathon two weeks before since the extent of the event caught me totally off guard. Of course I was fully aware that more starters would find their way to Berlin than to Bad Kleinkirchheim, but I was quite surprised to learn that the total number of participants competing in both, the 60 and 120km races, exceeded the amount of my hometown’s inhabitants.

[Picture your closest 12,000 neighbours, put each and everyone on their bike mix it with a lot of excitement and what you get is the atmosphere you will encounter in Berlin. Okay, I am probably exaggerating a bit, but still I cannot find a better way to describe the diversity of riders and material.]

Registering for the Velothon I was asked if I wanted to start out of a women only starting block – a special arrangement for beginners. Without further thinking I ticked the related box but started second guessing when more and more people told me that this probably was not the best idea as there would be a lot of inexperienced riders around. Thus, I decided to line up early in order to get to the very front of the block, so that I would be able to escape the Gordian knot of tangled limbs and frames which might develop out of insufficiently maintained equipment and poor riding skills. As a result I literally found myself in the front row the very next morning.

Once the starting signal was given the field started moving towards the timing mat. It seemed as if everybody took their sweet time clicking in and getting comfy on their bikes because no one passed me. Well, no one except that one gal wearing a rainbow jersey vanishing into thin air in what felt like a split second. Once the timing mat was passed, I was expecting that a stampede of wild amazons would follow rainbow girl’s lead but nothing happened. I was all alone and if the course would not have been lined with race marshals, I would have thought that I got lost. With my veloferocity switched on, I spent the first eight- or nine-hundred meters dashing through Germany’s capital wandering how to survive without revitalising in someone’s slipstream every now and then. Suddenly the Velothon’s slogan “the city is yours” took on a completely new significance ;)

Fortunately, I was not out there alone for long. Two other girls joined me and stayed within my vicinity for quite a while. Another two kilometres later the first riders of the following starting block joined up and it did not take long until I found a bunch of racers I could comfortably cling on to. However, I virtually had to elbow my way through in order defend my spot within this group.

Whenever I was edged out, I instantly tried to force my way back into the field and even managed to close some gaps bringing me the deference ["Well done! You ride like a bloke, lassie!"] of several of my co-racers. Well, I guess I learned from the best in Carinthia ;) Swollen with pride I gave everything on the two “climbs” people from Berlin might call hills resulting in two Queen of the Mountain titles on Strava :)

Unfortunately, all sweet moments have to come to an end eventually. My flight of fancy ended right at the beginning of the stretch I was looking forward to most: the runways of Tempelhof Airport. The entrance was marked by a narrow bend and after slowing down I lost my group. Encircled by a bunch of riders who too did not want to risk anything, I saw my landmark riders disappear. I blew my lungs out to follow their lead… in vain. Strong headwinds made it impossible for me to go faster and I had to remind myself to save some energy for the rest of the race unless I wanted to be carried over the finishing line attached to a respirator.

So, there I was out on my own again and it took me almost 5 kilometres to find a new group I felt comfortable riding with. The rest of the race however passed by quite uneventfully and when I realised that I was about to enter the final straight, I was a bit surprised that this was it for the day since I still felt loaded with vigour and vim. With no reason to conserve any more energy I gave everything collecting at least 10 other riders over the last 1,000 metres just to get a finishing photo with an angry grin and to score a solid 39th place in my age group and a position within the top 10% overall. Wohoo!

To sum it up, I would say that the Garmin Velothon was a great event. The entire organisation was exemplary and I really liked the atmosphere. Hope to be able to join again next year!

Cycling Dad’s perspective:

Once more, Alex took the lead in this race report, and still it has taken us ages to complete this  post. After all, we’re cycling PARENTS of a toddler and a newborn… So here’s only a  brief writeup from my side. I can however, offer you an extremely cool video from the organizers with actual footage from the race and feedback which I quickly put together for the editors at roadBIKE magazine. Unfortunately it is in German, but I trust a fair part of our readership is German or can use the Google translator on the text below.

In a nutshell, with the help of an extremely fast group of riders around our team captain, former pro rider Jörg Ludewig, I completed the 120k in 2:44:32, with a 41.4 km/h average. This is the fastest speed I ever managed to achieve over such a distance, and the race completely blew out my lights around km 110. I literally dragged myself over the final 10k and across the finish line. What an experience!

First, here’s the video:

Witness the scribe at position 0:37 and 0:47 of the video on the left-hand side, BEFORE the lights went out ;) .

And here’s the writeup I sent to roadBIKE magazine:

Unser Trainer Steffan Zelle vom Radlabor hat mir mal gesagt: “Wenn der Startschuss fällt, dann geht das Rennen los”. Fuer das Team Alpecin bedeutete das beim Veloton Berlin Vollgas von der Startlinie weg. Lude ging ab der ersten Kurve in die Fuehrung und schoss seine Giftpfeile ueber das Feld ;) .

Die schienen hauptsaechlich in meinen Beinen stecken zu bleiben, denn die beiden Stefans und Kei-Uwe liessen sich nichts anmerken. Ja, sie gingen sogar mit in Fuehrung und trieben das Tempo weiter unbarmherzig in die Höhe.

Bereits nach wenigen Kilometern war somit die Fuehrungsgruppe deutlich dezimiert. 15 Tiefflieger im Anflug auf Tempelhof. Klangvolle Namen.. Bator, Zelle, Wuest, Seltrecht, Ludewig, Klimek, Singbeil… alle waren sie nach Berlin gekommen, um im Laktat zu baden.

Auf den ersten 60 Kilometern klammerte ich mich größtenteils an meinem Lenker fest und konzentrierte mich darauf, zu ueberleben. Derweil staunte ich ueber die neuen Maximalpuls-Werte, die da regelmaessig aus meinem Polar purzelten. Der Spass beginnt ab Laktat 16…

Bei der Geschwindigkeit immer wieder gerne eine dicke 5 an erster Stelle. Einmal schaffte Lude es scheinbar, zeitgleich Tempo an der Spitze der Gruppe zu machen und mich gleichzeitig wieder an das Ende des Feldes ranzufahren. Magic! Jedes Mal wenn Lude in die Fuehrung ging und das Tempo anzog, starb etwas in meinen Beinen.

Tunnelblick.

Irgendwann tauchte der Rennkommissar auf und sagte dass sich unsere (mit Vorsprung gestartetes Kuriositäten-Kabinett aka VIP-) Gruppe vom Hauptfeld entferne. Wir moegen doch bitte einen Gang rausnehmen. Das hoert man nicht alle Tage… es folgen ein paar Kilometer zum Durchschnaufen. Essen.

Der Bator drängte darauf, endlich wieder Gas zu geben. Marcel Wuest’s Sohn ist Mitglied in meinem alten Radverein Pulheimer SC. Was man sich so erzaehlt wenn man sich am Riemen reisst… Mein Puls war immer noch deutlich ueber 150… der Koerper traute der Ruhe nicht… und sollte Recht behalten.

Eine dreikoepfige Ausreissergruppe schloss zu uns auf. Genug um das Stockerl zu besetzen. Sie fuhren ein wenig von unserer Gruppe weg, dann gibt ab es kein Halten mehr. Die Jagd war eroeffnet. Immer wieder Tempowechsel.

Die Spitzenleute aus dem Feld waren jetzt mit in der Fuehrung.

Dann die Einfahrt nach Tempelhof. Engstelle, scharf bremsen, rechts rein. Lude vorne, Attacke…

Der Mann mit dem Hammer kam aus dem alten Terminal und lief gemaechlich an den Rand der Rennstrecke. Wir sahen uns kurz in die Augen. Dann boxte er mich vom Rad. Aus, vorbei. Nichts mehr in den Beinen. Und meine Blicke folgten sehnsuechtig Kei-Uwe’s Hinterrad, das sich immer weiter von mir entfernte.

Auf dem Zahnfleisch durch Berlin. Noch 10 Kilometer. Tempo 30. Wie sehr ich mir noch Koerner gewuenscht haette. Immer mehr Zuschauer an der Rennstrecke.

Fragende Kinderaugen. DAS soll ein Mann aus der Spitzengruppe sein? Wieso sieht der so müde aus?

5km. Das Hauptfeld rauschte an mir vorbei und riss mich im seinem Windschatten mit. 2km vor dem Ziel ein Sturz im Hauptfeld. 20 Fahrer purzelten vor mir übereinander, schienen aber sofort wieder aufzustehen. Rennfieber. Adrenalin. Zu Ende Fahren.

Zielgerade. Unglaubliche Stimmung. Endzeit 2:44:32. Ein Schnitt von 41,35 km/h auf 120km Stecke. Mein bisher schnellstes Rennen. Ein unglaubliches Erlebnis. Hochachtung vor unserem sportlichen Leiter Joerg Ludewig, und vor jedem einzelnen Finisher des Velothons der bei diesem Rennen ueber seine Grenzen hinausgewachsen ist.

Linda und Andreas wuensche ich gute Erholung von ihren Stürzen. Ich bin froh dass ihr mit “blauen” Augen davongekommen seid.

Looking forward to hopefully joining this race again in 2014!

Video from the 2013 Carinthia Cycle Marathon

By Cycling Dad:

Due to popular demand, here’s the video from the 2013 Carinthia Cycle Marathon that I took with my helmet camera. And here’s the full race report.

In case you have been wondering why there hasn’t been a post on the Cycling Parents Blog for more than a month and we still owe you the Berlin and Mondsee race reports – yes, we’re still in business! Just struggling to keep up with the lot…! The extensive training for the Oetztal Cycle Marathon and Endura Alpentraum later this year is taking up a lot of time, but it also is fun as the long-awaited summer has finally arrived. Both Alex and I are currently spending up to 20 hours per week on the bike, taking turns in looking after the children. We’ll spend the next week in the Swiss Alps to hone in on our climbing skills. Hopefully we’ll find time to post a story or two on the way. Bear with us!

Race Report – Carinthia Cycle Marathon 2013

Today’s post will be a bit different from the previous ones. This is a race report of the 2013 Carinthia Cycle Marathon, which took place on May 25th, written from the perspectives of different riders. Here’s the team:

From left to right, meet Axel, Basti, Alex (a.k.a. Spinning Mum) and Kai (a.k.a. Cycling Dad). Yes, there’s a GoPro camera on top of Kai’s helmet… no questions please…

Axel, Basti and Kai are old cycling buddies from the Pulheimer SC racing club. They used to race a lot together in their teenager years, and even battled Team Sky’s Christian Knees when he was a junior with VfL Rheinbach. Many years have passed since, but friendship and love of cycling remains.

No need to introduce Spinning Mum, who – after giving birth to Johanna only ten weeks ago – is back in the saddle and has set her eyes on several upcoming races.

Enjoy reading Axel and Alex’s race reports!

 

Spinning Mum’s Race Report

There are certain things in my life I still have not realized, yet. Living abroad and having two adorable kids for example and – since May 26th – successfully finishing my first cycling race ever – the Carinthia Cycle Marathon.

When Kai registered for the full marathon I was still pregnant with little Johanna and never wasted even a single thought on competing in a cycle race myself. So, when we booked our family vacation around the marathon I was just looking forward to go for a ride with Kai while his parents (whom we invited to join us as babysitters^^) would watch the kids for an hour or two. But as you may remember from my previous post, I was lucky to recover from my C-section quite fast so that I ended up registering for the marathon’s short course over 65km with an altitude gain of 946m just a couple of days before the event.

At that point I have not had any great expectations. I was merely interested in surviving and not being the last participant crossing the finish line. Little did I know because someone sent me three angels pushing and pulling me through the marathon, so that in the end I scored a solid 10th place in my age group. Yeah!

But let me start from the beginning…

The weather situation
Ever since we arrived at our holiday home temperatures dropped significantly, sending us rain and even snow with the result that the long circuit encompassing the legendary Nockalm Road had been replaced by an alternative route covering two laps on the shorter course. Very frustrating for those courageous cycling warriors who were enduring long journeys in order to conquer this infamous pass road like our dear friends Cavalier Axel of London (a.k.a. Mr. Eton) and Knight Bastian of Hamburg. Both of them followed Kai’s invitation to Bad Kleinkirchheim for a merciless cycling reunion which unfortunately had to give way to a less epic version.

Alex’s angels
For me however the change of plans was a blessing in disguise. Due to the fact that there were no longer different starting times, the guys decided that it would be fun to support me during my first race, for example by letting me ride in their slipstream. As I did not want to ruin their finishing times, I did not really agree to this plan, but Kai and his buddies were determined to implement their strategy. And with hindsight I am really grateful that they kept their word as I would not have scored such an amazing result without their coaching and cheering. [Thank you so much, guys!]

Pre race anticipation
I do not know what it is with such events. Whenever I enter a sporting competition I am as nervous as a pig in a bacon factory though there is absolutely nothing to lose. Luckily, I prepared my entire gear the night before. With my water bottles already filled, the timing chip in place and my number bib attached to my jersey, I only had to focus on having enough food for breakfast. Quite a challenge when suffering from an antsy stomach… But wait… Where are my sun glasses…?

Two slices of white bread and a scavenger hunt later I found myself in a still snow covered car heading towards the starting point in cold but sunny Bad Kleinkirchheim. Once the car was parked I had a quick glance at all the other participants prepping their bikes. I instantly wanted to hide in the trunk. They were all looking so damn professional… There was even a bunch of riders warming up on a turbo trainer! What the hell was I thinking signing up for this…

But before I could actually find a place to hide the guys put me on my Racemachine for a quick warmup session and only minutes later I found myself in the middle of the starting area. Again, there was no chance to chicken out as I was encircled by my three angels. I felt absolutely miserable and rational thinking became almost impossible. My thoughts kept spinning around all kinds of race scenarios like not being able to click in and out of my pedals as required, crashing and bidding farewell to my hip or collarbones, keeping the guys from going full throttle and thus off the winner’s podium, and, and, and…

Fortunately, my brain and body went into race mode once the starting signal was given and nervousness gave way to something I never experienced before and what from now on I shall call ‘veloferocity’ – a state of mind which does not allow room for any other thoughts than ‘Ride.For.Your.Life’.

The race is on
Only seconds into the marathon Kai and the gang where nowhere to be seen anymore. Probably their veloferocity kicked in, too, and they went off like greyhounds scenting a lure whilst I was still bemused by the flock of furious cycling warriors trying to find their spot in the field. Keeping up with my bodyguards at a sustainable heart rate was simply impossible. Every now and then I could catch a glimpse at one of their jerseys but no matter how hard I tried, I just could not catch up.

But what did I expect? How can a road bike rookie keep pace with three seasoned warriors? Thankfully, they noticed that I could not cling to their back wheels and adapted their speed, so that I could keep up and let the field do the work. A quick glimpse at my Garmin revealed that we were close to flying: 45km/h – 50km/h – 55km/h – … Holy cow, I never thought that I could go this fast on plain grounds!

I was handed energy bars and gels from all sides, every now and then the guys reminded me to take a sip from my water bottle and Kai soon enjoyed himself pacing Basti and Axel, so that I would not fall behind. As you can see, I was looked after really, really well :)

However, when we reached the first steep descent towards Himmelberg, I decided to slow down a bit as there were too many roughshod riders speeding irresponsibly into the hairpin bends meandering down the slope in front of us. After a short reunion with my angels, who waited for me at the foot of the hill I found myself at the beginning of the 10km climb up to Klösterle and the first food supply station. Again, I decided to ride at my own pace rather than belting up the ramp.

Strange enough I even passed several fellow sufferers who overreached themselves and thus were already on their last legs. But apparently one brave chum in a light blue team kit wanted his bread buttered on both sides as he was heading downhill for another round… To my surprise that dude turned out to be none other than Cavalier Axel of London who was looking for us after running riot :) [Take a second to imagine the looks on our competitors' faces... ]

More or less reunited we carried on until we saw a sign-board announcing the first food supply station. Suddenly everybody seemed to be in a feeding frenzy… Kai mumbled something about fetching me some food and within a fraction of a second there was only a trail of dust where he took off. Next thing I remember is that Kai handed me a banana whilst we were passing many other riders including Knight Bastian and Cavalier Axel at the Klösterle check point.

Pretty sure that they would join up within seconds Kai and I did not bother to sojourn and started burning some rubber on the course’s second big descent towards Afritz. For some reasons there were hardly any other riders around and since the race marshals clearly indicated all danger spots, I mustered all my courage for this downhill passage. Again, I felt like flying crossing the 70km/h mark. But reaching Kai’s pace was impossible. Dressed in his all black ninja-like race attire, he clearly had the advantage of his super aerodynamic Lightweight Meilensteins at his hands…

Unfortunately, this descent was not meant to last. About 15 minutes later we found ourselves back on almost level ground. Soon reunited with the rest of the gang we continued as we started: in a strong group collecting rider after rider and group after group until we reached the second food supply station in Radentheim just before the last climb of the day.

Though I told ninja Kai and Cavalier Axel to take off for their second lap, they stuck with Knight Basti and me until the very last, encouraging me to give everything on what appeared to be the longest kilometre I ever had to overcome…

Seriously, I abhorred every single metre of this final straight and almost missed the turn towards the finishing line because I was so focused on cursing the incline, my feeble chamois and the guy complaining about Axel’s pub-trained cheering. But all this misery was forgotten as soon as we were greeted by Didi Senft in his devils costume at the finish line.

After the race is before the race
Wow, I made it! With a big smile on my face and an even bigger lump in my throat I was looking for Knight Basti when someone held a microphone in my face. Interview? Me? Now? OMG! No time for tears of joy and relief… Always look and act like a pro :)
I hope I was not stuttering too much sharing my thoughts which I can only repeat once again in a less awkward situation:
The Carinthia Cycle Marathon was a very well-organized race and the perfect event for a rookie like me. A heartfelt ‘Thank You’ goes out to all the selfless helpers, cheerful spectators, cautious drivers and especially to my three guardians who made this race an unforgettable debut just nine weeks after Johanna was born. I will definitely be back for more ;)

 

Axel’s Race Report

Spinning Mum has already shed light on the weather developments leading to the route changes and the Dream Team’s strategy for the Carinthian Cycle Marathon 2013 in her own race report, so I will not bore you to death with that J

What I will (at least try to) talk about here is my personal experience of what was, in hind sight, a race full of “firsts” for me.  My first experience of Alpine road cycling (previously, my only encounters with these mountains were either in transit in a car or on a plane or, at the most, one a very enjoyable mountainbike holiday several decades ago);  my first ride with a climbing effort of more than 2,000m – no, not just this season, but probably in forever;  my first ride in a proper peloton in a loooong time, seeing as usually, the groups I ride with these days are around the 20 people mark and certainly never more than 40 souls – here in Austria we were to set off with more than 560 people at (more or less) the same time.

And last, but not certainly not the least daunting: this was to be my first race since I hung up my licence all these years ago (and like in CyclingDad’s case, we are talking many, MANY years).

The thing is: ever since signing up for the Carinthian Cycle Marathon and transferring the starter fee, I kept telling myself “This is not a race, it’s a sportive.  A pleasant ride through gorgeous countryside with a bunch of friends all just happy to be out on the bike for the day.  Possibly a bit hard at times (i.e. uphill…), yes, but with plenty of food stations as a compensation.  And you know that you can’t fault Austrian food, so you’ll be fine.  It’ll all be grand!”  Nonetheless, the closer the date got, the more nervous I became and the harder it got to believe my own mantra…

So, you can imagine the state my nerves got in when the Dream Team was greeted in Bad Kleinkirchheim by what can only be described as picture perfect organisation.  Even by Austrian standards.  I mean: sign-on and number/ starter pack collection for all these hundreds of people?  Not a glitch.  It took all of the Dream Team combined(!) something like 10 minutes to be fully set.  What’s more impressive though: the whole town “felt” like something big was about to happen that next day. It truly felt like a storm was coming.  There were posters and flyers advertising the race everywhere.  And I mean everywhere:  on virtually every vertical area in and around the town, walls, trees, shop windows, post boxes, you name it (probably on your car too if you parked somewhere too long…);  you were given them at the cash register in supermarkets some 15km off the actual race route;  I think I even heard the event mentioned on the radio (though not sure).  Didi Senft, El Diablo himself , was in town, busily putting the final touches to the finish line (and still finding time for a brief chat with the Dream Team, that’s how awesome and adorable we are!).  And cyclists milling around everywhere, all of them looking super-serious, very well-trained and (very believably) conveying the notion that they all had resting heart rates in the low teens and were equipped with material straight out of NASA’s labs.

Let’s just say, your truly did not sleep well that night.  And it was not due to the pre-race wine and Nutella pizza… (another first, that, by the way)

Inevitably though, race day dawned.  So, following a quick breakfast, lots of bottles were prepared, kit was donned, jersey pockets were stuffed with all manner of energy bars and gels, legs were prepped with “StartOil” (more for that genuine “race smell” than for any performance increase), and we found our way to the start…

And then, suddenly, time just shifted gears.  Where a second ago there was apprehension and nervousness (“OMG, so many people – and they are ALL better prepared than me, surely!”, “What if there’s a crash?!”, etc. etc.) – as soon as the peloton began rolling out, all of a sudden there was just… nothing!  I just found myself in the zone.  Straight away my only thoughts were… well, not really thoughts anymore.  More like intuitions, reactions of an almost instinctive nature.  “Gotta follow that wheel!”  “Where’s Alex, where’s Kai?”  “Ah, there’s Basi, good man!”  “Ooh, a gap, better close that.”  “Legs feeling good, awesome!”  That sort of stuff.  Nothing but brief thought-flashes about cycling and staying upright and performing well.  Certainly nothing about the job or child care or money and all these other daunting real-life things.  Those things did still of course exist, outside, off the race track, far away – but for the moment, they were gone.  And let me tell you: after weeks and months of thinking, yes, often worrying, about seemingly everything under the sun (as you do when you have a new baby), it was bliss!

And quickly the initial post-start hullabaloo had dissolved somewhat, the Dream Team had found together by the end of the first downhill and we started tackling the rolling hills that laid before us like a well-oiled machine.  A really, really well-oiled machine:  over the course of the next couple of kilometres, we were picking up group upon group of competitors.  It felt like we passed hundreds of riders with ease.  And what a great feeling it was J

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever and so, after an exhilarating descent down towards the village of Himmelberg, the climbing began.  Some 10km of pure uphill laid in front of us.  Needless to say, fuelled in equal measure by youthful arrogance and endorphins from the downhill and the positive start to this race, I started hammering up the hill, collecting more and more riders on my way.  The rest of the DreamTeam were much more prudent and tackled what was, effectively, only the first climb of many that day, in a more relaxed fashion.  Not me, though, I disappeared up the hill, my heart beating in my throat and my power meter showing values I found hard to believe…  Luckily, I did eventually come to my senses and realised that the DreamTeam was somewhere behind me – and that this was not how we wanted to ride this race.  This was, after all, to be a team event and I would not be of much use to our cause of delivering SpinningMum to the line with a respectable time if I’d blown myself up on the very first hill and had thereafter been unable to perform any work for the equipe.  No, I decided that enough of this tomfoolery is enough.

And so I performed a beautiful U-turn and swung around.

The faces of the people coming uphill, the same people I had just passed with what must have sounded to them like my lungs were about to explode, the look as they saw me leisurely rolling down the hill again in the opposite direction was absolutely priceless.  I would highly recommend it for your next event, but as you’ll read below, I ended up paying a high price for it…

Anyhow, a short while later (longer than I had thought, though) I was reunited with the rest of the DreamTeam and we carried on up the mountain together like we had said we would.  And not only that, but we stayed in close formation for the rest of the lap – apart, obviously, from the large downhill section towards Afritz am See, where Basi and myself were desperately trying to reel back in the combined force of the CyclingParents who had left the feed station at the top of the previous hill slightly earlier than we had.  To explain: when Basi and I saw the two of them leave the feed station we were not concerned – after all, whilst CyclingDad does have, well, certain gravitational advantages over us light weights on any descent, he’d also have to assist SpinningMum downhill and, we thought, this would impede his usual rapid progress enough to allow Basi and I to catch up with both of them swiftly.  However, unbeknownst to us CD had slipped into full-on, take-no-prisoners, death-defying race mode – and so, apparently, had SM.  Basi was leading the descent and even in his slipstream, I had to push quite hard indeed.  I’ve looked at the data later and discovered that I was pushing upwards of 350 watts at that stage of the race with a heart rate well north of 160bpm – and remember: that was downhill and in Basi’s slipstream!  There certainly wasn’t any rest for the wicked, like I had hoped (and banked on!).  And to make it worse: despite our best efforts, we did not manage to even catch a glimpse of the CyclingParents until we finally reached the valley floor.  I can’t for the life of me imagine what sort of devilish descent they put on up front.  I am pretty sure, though, that they must have treated the laws of physics with the contempt a Frenchman would usually give a set of unpoliced parking recommendations…

Finally though, the DreamTeam was reunited: a SpinningMum energised rather than exhausted from the descent, a CyclingDad seemingly fresh as a daisy and eager to get going again (“Where the heck were you two?!”), a Basi who’d seemingly just finished his warm-up programme – and myself, totally knackered from my earlier (yes, totally unnecessary) attack on Alpe d’Huez, cheated out of my well-earned rest on the downhill by our hell-bent attempt to re-attach us to the CyclingParents and therefore having dipped deep into the Red Zone well before even the half-point marker of the race… fantastic.

Luckily riding as a team allowed all of us to play vital and equally important roles.  There was SpinningMum, of course, the be-all and end-all of our strategy for the day – she had to ensure to keep the pace, let the rest of the Team know whether she wanted to go faster (God forbid!) or slower (never happened!) and alert us if she encountered a technical defect (also never happened).  Then there was CyclingDad, probably the only competitor to also take on the role of Directeur Sportif and thus constantly occupied with issuing orders of the highest strategic relevance to all other members of the DreamTeam: “Alex, use a different gear!”, “Basi, go to the front and set a high pace!”, “Axel, go to the rear and make sure Alex stays on!”, and on it went… Thirdly, Basi, taking up an all-important role of steam engine, motorbike and pace maker.  Before the start, he’d told us all that the previous week was the first one he’d been back on his bike since last winter – but either that was a load of b*ll*cks or this whole racing business does keep people in a very good shape even if they decide not to do much for a couple of months… either way, when Basi put himself onto the front, things got quick for the rest of us.  It was as if someone had just turned on a tap: he pedalled to the front and with seemingly no effort to him at all, the speed of the whole group jumped up.  And just stayed high.  And stayed and stayed and stayed…  Meanwhile, my own invaluable contribution to the DreamTeam’s success was to get in a spot right behind SpinningMum, ready to pass her and drag her back into the slipstream of the guy in front should she ever lose contact and a gap open up (once again: never happened!) and else just ensuring that no one coming up from the back tries to push her out of her position in our little chain gang.  So, essentially, I was sucking wheels.  It was a tough job, but someone had to do it J

Eventually, our group reached the beginning of the next (and for SpinningMum and Basi the last) hill of the day, the ‘Wall of Kleinkirchheim’ as it could and should have been known.

Now, this was one steep and long m*therf….  And it came at just about the half-way point for CyclingDad and myself, so I thought better of it this time and went up deliberately holding back and ensuring we’d get up there as a team.  Heart rate never above 160bpm, power output comfortably below 200 watts.  I knew that the next lap, the one I’d be doing with CyclingDad alone, would be just as long distance-wise – but it would hurt significantly more.

And boy, was I right!  As soon as we had passed the finish line for the first time and left SpinningMum and Basi behind, CD hit the gas in an utterly unholy fashion.  I’ve seen similar feats of acceleration at air shows I’ve visited, when a lucky display pilot got the chance to demonstrate a Typhoon’s awesome thrust-to-weight ratio, lighting the afterburners and accelerating whilst going up vertically…!  (A sight, by the way, that should be made mandatory for people to experience in real life!)

The thing is, at these airshows I’ve never seen anyone trying to hang on to the tail fin of the plane – but I assure you this is exactly what it felt like to me, trying to stay in CD’s slipstream for the next couple of kilometres…

I did manage to hang on to him – and apparently, I wasn’t the only one amazed by his efforts!  When we finally caught up with a group that, for all intents and purposes, should have been uncatchable to us, an Italian rider came alongside and offered his heartfelt admiration and ‘felicitazioni!’ to CD – and I couldn’t agree more with him, it was an awesome ride that probably Spartacus himself would have been amazed by…

Well, we recovered our breaths for a short while whilst riding with the group we’d just caught up with, but then we left them in our dust again – on the next downhill.  CD clearly was on fire, he claimed later that his Garmin showed speeds in excess of 100 kph – mine did not, but I assure you, we were going down that hill really, really quickly nonetheless.

Now we got to the bottom of the first major hill, the one that I had so viciously (and imprudently) attacked in the first lap.  This time, CD and I would ride up together, not holding back (certainly no more U-turns!) but not deliberately dropping one another either – still, I knew about CD’s awesome advantage going down the hill on the other side, so I decided to push the pace and thus buy myself some respite for the descent.  Initially it worked and I left CD behind for a bit – only for him to then re-appear, as if by black magic, on my back wheel and then not letting go again.  Clearly, there would be no breather for me at the top today…

So then, how did both ascents compare, the first lap vis-à-vis the second?  Have a look for yourself!

As you can see, they are both pretty similar – giving you an idea as to the effort I put into both climbs.  Obviously, I “lost” circa three minutes doing my little U-turn on lap 1, but it turned out that the final time difference on the top of the climb was only some five minutes.  In other words:  had it not been for the U-turn, my second climb would have been only some two minutes faster than the first – and that’s despite the fact that I was not holding back on any part of the climb in lap 2, seeing as I was trying to get some distance between CD and myself so I could rest on the descent…  I guess one can already see the effect of fatigue creeping up quite visibly at this point?  Well, certainly on the bike at that moment, my legs did not feel fresh anymore at all…

So it was with a feeling of on-setting cramps that I hit the feed station on top of the hill like a man possessed.  Several Red Bull and energy gels were downed without even swallowing, my bottle refilled with more Red Bull – and all just in time before CD demanded a hasty departure again…  And needless to say: there was no bumbling along on this descent either, trying to hang on to CD’s back wheel.

By the time we reached the valley floor, I was toast.  We had at that point almost 3:30hs of riding in our legs, virtually none of that in the flat, and in my case, a lot of it at or even above my pitiful lactate threshold…  clearly, I was going to have to pay a price for my earlier cockiness up that hill.  Especially, as the last hill of the day was still ahead of us.

But for the time being, getting to the foot of that hill was my only concern.  Luckily, CD had no problem with me sucking wheels for a bit – or at least he didn’t let it show.  He just got to the front and started rolling like an unstoppable machine.  Rider upon rider we met – and we passed.  Most of the guys were happy for some company (and slipstream I suppose), so soon enough, CD and I had amassed ourselves a group of some five to ten people.  Some of them even still able and willing to put in some work at the front, giving CD a very well-earned break – I for one, however, could only sit in the back.  No chance of me putting in an effort at the front – it would have been the end to my day.

Soon enough, with burning legs and lungs in my case, we reached the bottom of the final climb.  Knowing that the finish line was awaiting at the top, I decided to put everything into it… even if it meant tapping into energy reserves within my body that are usually safeguarded and not to be trifled with;  stuff, which is only to be dipped into and used up when chased by a bear or a shark or in some other life-threatening situation.  Think one of thos “Break Glass in Case of Emergency” boxes…  J

Well, I did break the glass.

And still, CD had to wait for me!  More annoyingly, when compared to the first ascent on lap 1, we weren’t even that much quicker.  Have a look for yourselves:

Whilst CD and I were indeed climbing consistently faster on lap 2, the total time difference at the finish amounted to only circa two minutes…  I’ve looked at the power data back home: the charts made it seem like I had held back on lap 2.  I rarely managed to push more than 200 watts, my heart rate hovered at, but did not go much beyond 170bpm (I max out at circa 185bpm) – so it looked to me, in retrospect, like there had still been room.  You know, room for having gone quicker.

But I can honestly say that it was simply not possible on the day to quench even another tenth of a kph out of our speed going up that final climb.  By the time we reached Bad Kleinkirchheim for the second time, I was hyperventilating and… well… crying.  I’ve never experienced this sort of emotional elation at any sporting event I’ve taken part in so far.  Ever!  But when we crossed the line, I was just spent.  Totally and utterly spent.  There was no ounce of energy left in me and my whole thinking was focused on getting my breathing back on track and the shaking to stop.

Once that was done, though, a rush of endorphins hit and a sense of achievement overcame me like I’ve rarely known before.

And it may well be due to that endorphin rush, but as soon as the bikes were stowed, the post-race pasta was eaten and a warm shower had, the plan was hatched to come back again in 2014 and try to better our times – and by then to hopefully get a shot at the famous Nockalm Road, too.

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!

Rough Outline of a Training and Competition Plan

Many visitors of this post are looking for more information on how to get on the Ferry Dusika Velodrome in Vienna. Click here to jump directly to the corresponding blogpost.

By Cycling Dad:

There are nine months left until the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon… Fittingly, I do feel pregnant with the idea of finishing the Big O next year. Nine months, which will decide about victory (finishing the ordeal at all) and utter defeat.

As regular readers may have noticed, this scribe has been laboring with the development of his training plan for some weeks now. I got the winter gear, and more equipment is already on the way in order to increase the total sunk cost of the entire endeavor. I have collected bits and pieces of information here and there in the meantime, and have also started doing a few haphazard rides. Also, I still remember parts of my old Junior-Category training schedules. But how much is enough, and how to manage squeezing all this into my professional and family life?

Since last week I am a member of the local bike club RC Mödling and have hoped to find support from a coach there. But (un)fortunately the chaps here are a bunch of really nice people with a strong focus on spending quality time together. On club meetings (which of cause take place in a local pub), there are more cycling veterans with 50+ years road and race experience then I have ever seen bunched into one place. It’s fun, but on the downside there’s no coach, no structured team training and at this time of the year a stubborn resistance to leaving the pub for cycling. Still, Alex, Konstantin and I had a very warm welcome to the community and we are sure to make friends here. That is most important. And indeed, I have found a group of four regular riders that I can join on the weekends for the longer rides and some trash talk along the way ;) .

Back to the training plan. As my former coach Bill rightfully pointed out in reply to one of my earlier posts, “endurance mixed in with low-weight high reps sessions is the focus at this time of the year”. I think what the coach really wanted to say is “Kai, try to get through this winter without gaining too much weight. There’s cookies, drinks and you’ll try to find more excuses for skipping a ride or training session then there are lights on a Christmas tree”. The coach knows me, but he also holds six US national cycling titles and one PanAmerican cycling title. So his advice carries some authority. I will try to do some long rides on the weekends for endurance and mix in some squats and lunges on the sides for power. During the week, I am too time crunched for anything surpassing one hour of training time Monday through Thursday. With working days often ranging from 8am through 7pm, you go figure. Add in an hour commute per day and try to spend the remaining time with the family… Oh and there’s a new excuse problem: the neighbors have started complaining about our washing machine running for an hour between 5.30 and 6.30 in the mornings. So no more pre-work static training, unless I spend another 300 bucks for a more quiet static trainer. I have a personal history with static trainers, so that is not going to happen – especially as the vibrations seem to cause the noise in our neighbor’s bedroom… Getting on the trainer at 8.30pm after a day at work and preferentially after dinner? Tough call.. and potentially also prone to the objection from our (otherwise lovely) neighbours.

There are still other options, such as swimming and gym training. In fact I have spent one hour in the pool last Thursday evening and the week before (8pm through 9pm, before dinner) and the core training seems to ease the strain in my back from sitting in the office chair most of the day. I am not sure if this will make me faster in the saddle, but I guess I’ll give it a try and find out. Regarding gym training, I have signed up for a regular class “winter training for cyclists”, taking place each Friday night between 6pm and 8pm. Focus is – again – on core training and intervals. This may give me a good excuse for leaving the office a bit earlier on Fridays (which should be no problem), but the training takes place in Wiener Neustadt, which requires a 45 minute drive one way. I’ll check it out and let you know if it is worth the effort.

That still leaves Tuesday and Wednesday for more cycling-related action. What are the remaining options? Well, on the one hand there’s commuting to work by bike which could give me 55k per day… I have the clothes, and I still have some lights… let me think about it just a few more days…

And then there is the Ferry Dusika cycling stadion in Vienna. Yes, we are among the few blessed places in the world that actually have an indoor, wooden cycling track. With club membership, it would be just a small step to get permission to train there, but I need to find a track bike first. Dishing out another 600 bucks to get a basic model seems too painful, so I am trying to find someone to rent me a frame size 60 model. I would love to go on the track one or two nights per week during wintertime.

Dusika Stadion Vienna
Photo: Florian Ertl

So to put it into a nutshell, I am trying to fit two one hour sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, one hour of swimming on Thursday, one to two hours gym training on Fridays and long rides on Saturday and Sunday, most likely in the 70-100k range. A couple of squats and lunges sprinkled in between. I will try to increase intensity in a four week cycle, three weeks with steady increase followed by a rest week with just an hour or two of riding on the weekend. Incidentally, the plan more or less matches the training advice from British Cycling, which Mr. Eton was kind enough to procure from obscure sources. This outline should be good until end of January. I will then start with some interval training on the hills and significantly longer rides on the weekends in order to build more muscular endurance at high intensities. But there’s still time to work that out and hopefully some more advice from knowledgeable resources.

Training Plan? Check.

 

Competition Plan

In order keep me motivated to get on my bike and provide feedback on my preparation status, I figured that it may also make sense to plan some training races in 2013. I am sending this offer out to the world, to everybody who is interested to join me in one or several of these races - here is the rough outline of my competition plan for 2013, which may be amended in the coming weeks.

That’s it for now. It has taken me all weekend to finish this post as Konstantin is teething and has an unbelievably foul mood… Alex and the belly dweller are doing great and Alex is generally enjoying her pregnancy, apart from temporary times of nausea. Last but not least – here are the training statics of the past week:

3 hours on the trainer (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday)
1 hour in the pool – freestyle ca. 2.5k (Thursday)
75k road Saturday
85k road Sunday

It has been a good training week.