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
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.
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!
Verdict (if you are short on time and simply indecisive as I was)
Both systems are rock-solid and have huge fan-bases. Like all Dura Ace components, Shimano’s PD-9000 pedal system is the paradigm of quality, with ultra-smooth bearings and a superb finish. Unless they get obliterated in a really nasty crash, the PD-9000 will likely last a lifetime. The Time Iclic Carbon pedal system does not quite leave the same impression, but also delivers performance right where you need it. At 286 grams including cleats, the Dura Ace pedal system is 12 grams lighter than the Time Iclic Carbon (298 grams), but you have to be ready to pay roughly twice as much for Shimano as for Time. It is a tough decision, but one thing is certain: in combination with the Lightweight Meilensteins, Time will look decidedly more devilish on Cycling Dad’s new S-Works Venge. Spinning Mum can have the Shimanos .
We gave the pedal systems to our highly trained testing department here at CyclingParents.com secret world headquarters. Below is the full review.
Time vs. Shimano
Is it a sensible thing to compare Shimano’s 2013 top-end pedal system with the not quite so fresh 2011 upper mid-range model from Time? Tough call, but we did not really have much time to think about this question upfront. At the end of February, I received a call from one of the editors at Roadbike Magazine, telling me that I had been selected for a position in the 2013 Team Alpecin which, among other benefits, provides the opportunity to ride a EUR 10k+ Specialized S-Works Venge for an entire season. The only thing not to be provided in the team kit would be the pedals, as most riders gravitate heavily towards one certain system of their choice. I can deal with that .
I have been riding Time since the 90s and loved them ever since. LeMond, Indurain, Pantani, Ullrich, Boonen – they all rode Time… so these pedals can’t be too shabby. And as I am planning to use my Cervelo with the entry-level Iclic Racer pedals on rainy days, it was an easy choice remain faithful to my existing system. There are more upscale models in the Time product range, for example the Xpresso 12 at just 217 grams per pair (weight including cleats), but clearly these come at a price. Also, I got a good value for the slightly dated Iclic Carbons.
The Dura Ace PD-9000 entered the scene when Alex finally decided to give a proper road pedal system a try. She’s been riding the touring-style SPD PD-A520 system until now, but with her new BMC racemachine RM01, clearly a matching pedal system was required.
The incumbent: The Time Iclic Carbon pedal system
The Time Iclic Carbon system comes in an aggressive-looking cardboard box. Included in the set is a pair of cleats and the usual manuals.
The pedal itself looks rather spaceship-like and comes with a matt carbon finish, slightly rough to the touch. It is stunningly lightweight and provides a rather large surface area for the shoe to make contact. This is important especially on long rides and cycle marathons as unequally distributed pressure on the pedal can lead to “hotspots” on the soles of your feet. Remember that any detail that may nag you after three hours may turn into a source of excruciating pain after six hours. As I am aiming for a finishing time around ten hours on the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon, every detail counts. I know that the Time system works for me, so no experiments here.
Time claims that it’s Iclic pedals are the fastest pedal system in the world. This is because the closing mechanism works like a ski binding and automatically builds tension in a carbon spring when stepping out of the pedal. This tension is released when you lower the shoe onto the pedal, securely locking the cleat into position without any additional effort required from the rider. The pedal system allows you to alter the Q-Factor (the distance between the foot and the crank) by circa 2.5mm per shoe, simply by swapping the sides of the (offset) cleats. You also get to enjoy a lateral float of 2.5mm on the pedal and +/- 5 percent angular float, which is an asset if you feel discomfort and/or pain in your knees from long bike rides.
Does the Time pedal system live up to the marketing claims? I’d say it does. When I was a teenager, my knees hurt a lot after riding the (then still fix-positioned) Look pedal system. Part of the discomfort in the knees must have been attributable to growth, but once I changed to Time with its (then unique) float, the discomfort vanished. I still hold a grudge against Look and obviously cherish Time until this day, even though most (all?) pedal manufacturers offer float in their current systems.
However, I must point out one weak spot from my experience with the Iclic system. With the cheaper Iclic Racers, every now and then the cleat does not seem to engage the pedal quite as smoothly as it should, requiring me to step out of and into the pedal one more time. Not a big deal as I am not racing criteriums that tend to be fast directly off the starting line. I am curious to see if the Iclic Carbons will behave differently from the Iclic Racers in this aspect.
Time claims a weight of 225 grams per pair, which I wanted to put to the test. Our scale must be off by 9 grams…
To be honest I was a bit surprised one cleat alone comes at 32 grams. 64 for a set is more than one-fourth of the weight of the pedals. I also forgot to weigh the screws and screw fixtures which surely may add another race-deciding five grams per shoe.
Dear Time Sports, is there no way these cleats can be made less bulky and/or more durable? Remember the good old Time Magnesium Equipe pedal system? I know from today’s perspective they look dull, but hell – spaceships looked like that in the 80s!
What I loved about them is that they came with metal cleats that worked perfectly and would last forever. From an economical perspective, I understand that the latter meant that the system needed to be replaced… but… can’t it just come back with a fresh design?
The Challenger: Shimano Dura Ace PD-9000
Shimano sends its top-line pedal system to the starting line packed in a slick, highly glossy cardboard box. They put an attractive middle-aged man holding an iPhone camera on the front of the packaging. It’s modern, it’s flashy. Kind of makes you want to get on your bike and ride. Oddly enough, his head seems to melt into the area right next to the Dura Ace product family brand logo.
Once I opened the box, I had a flashback to my first business trip to Japan. Packaging is important and perfection is the goal. I had interviews with managers of foreign companies in Japan who told me about deliveries of industrial chemicals being rejected by the Japanese customers because a single barrel in an entire delivery was dented or scratched. The appreciation for your customer’s business and your dedication to serving his requirements shows in the packaging. It does not matter if you’re selling candy, cosmetics, industrial equipment or bicycle components. There is much we can learn from Japan. So I was gazing at the individually packaged pedals, the right-hand pedal in a blue sachet labeled R, the left-hand pedal in a red sachet labeled L. Poka Yoke at work.
The Dura Ace PD-9000 pedals feel good to the touch, and they look fast! The release tension can be manually adjusted from soft to strong to match your individual preferences. One thing I cannot show you on the photo is how incredibly smooth those bearings are turning. They also appear to be sealed pretty well from water and particles to enter. Perfection.
Look at this contact surface. It’s huge! Pressure hotspots? Not with Dura Ace!
At 248 grams, the Dura Ace pedals certainly are not the lightest in the world. Quality comes at a cost. However, things are put back into perspective when adding the weight of the shoe cleats….
At 19 grams, Shimano managed to shave the weight of its cleats by 13 grams compared to Time’s Iclic… That’s 13 grams – per shoe! 26 grams on the entire system. I also forgot to include the weight of the screws and fixtures here, but even after adding a few grams on both Shimano and Time the difference remains the same. In the end, Shimano’s Dura Ace pedal system is 12 grams lighter than the Time Iclic Carbon (286 grams compared to 298 grams, both excluding screws and fixtures).
I am curious to see how fast Shimano’s cleats will wear in comparison to Time’s. We live on the outskirts of the city, so most riding takes place on rural roads without the need to step out of the pedals a lot, e.g. at traffic lights.
We will give both Time’s Iclic Carbon and the Shimano Dura Ace PD-9000 a thorough test over the coming months and post our summaries below at the end of the season.
Remember my post about the call for applications to the 2013 Team Alpecin by RoadBIKE Magazine? Well, at the end of February, I received a phone call from one of the editors at RoadBIKE Magazine. We had a nice casual interview and one day later he called me up again to let me know that I would be offered a place in the 2013 Team Alpecin. The guys at Alpecin and RoadBIKE Magazine like the idea of the Cycling Parents blog and believe that having a nut job like me on the team could provide some nice stories . He also told me to get ready for the training camp on Mallorca in April. I made it.
I am sure you can imagine that at first I was completely starstruck. Soon after (or already a few weeks before, if you like), I started my long descent into cycling madness, which you may have already noticed as a regular visitor or subscriber to the Cycling Parents Blog. I could virtually see myself riding the Specialized S-Works Venge with those devilish Lightweight Meilenstein wheels next to former champions Jan Ullrich and Jörg Ludewig. Not to mention getting to know the other team members – regular cyclists like you and me, each one of us with his or her own distinct cycling identity and stories to tell. A dream coming true for all of us, and a huge motivation for my cause and for finishing the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon.
Preparations for the team kickoff are in full swing, and images of the team material are already starting to leak to Facebook. One of these could be mine soon…
However, there still is one pressing question looming between me and the S-Works Venge… that is – will Alex deliver our daughter before the Team Kickoff event on March 16…? Our due date is March 14, and while there are strong indications that she will be on time, clearly I would stay with the family if she’s a bit late. You have to set the priorities right, and our credo goes ‘Love your family. Love your bike.’. Bike comes second. It is a photo finish, but a clear result alright. And if our little one is delayed by a few days, then I hope that the team will save my position. Fingers crossed.
Yes, I am still alive and still feeling fairly good, though our belly dweller sometimes limits my actions and inveigles me into rash decisions, such as spontaneously applying for the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and Team Alpecin myself, neglecting the fact that the little lady who is forcing me to move like a hippopotamus lately is seemingly taking her sweet time and wrecking the actual realisation of these plans
Now that I only have around two weeks to go, my back is killing me and I often feel like a balloon on the verge of bursting. So, I was wondering whether I can elicit our little belly dweller by taking a short spin on the static trainer. I was surprised how comfortable my BMC still felt but I have to admit that it is getting harder and harder to stay the course these days…
So, if you have any recommendations on how to speed things up a bit, please do let me know, as I can hardly wait for our little angel to arrive and being able to romp around the house with Konstantin again
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.”
I decided to take on this bonus mission, and will report about my learnings on this blog.
Today’s post will be a bit different from what you have read previously on cyclingparents.com, but I wanted to share this story with you.
In a nutshell Joachim, a cycling parent from Canada, has found our blog on the net and sent us valuable feedback and input for our further training. His message matters a lot to Alex and me, because Joachim is a person whom we have never met first hand, who still felt inspired by our blog to share his experiences on the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon with us. It is part of the true spirit of cycling and we immediately felt connected with Joachim. With Joachim’s consent, I have attached the first two emails of our conversation.
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Here’s Joachim’s first email:
Hi Cycling Parents,
Just wanted to wish you good luck with the Oeztaler plan! I am a cycling parent in Canada now, but I lived in Vienna for a few years and did that event 3 times. I just wanted to share 3 things with you, just to add to your arsenal of information, and help you prepare:
1- you really need a powermeter (you can get second hand wired Power Taps on ebay, www.bikeboard.at‘s sale forum, etc etc). This will let you monitor your progress accurately so you aren’t just riding around, or thrown off by low pulse from undertraining or overtraining, etc. It shows you whether your training is actually working, so you can adjust it as you go, and aren’t just following a plan that works for somebody else’s bodytype but not yours. It will teach you a ton as you progress towards your goal (which will be good information to know for the future too). And it is fun watching your efforts for certain climbs and rides, especially on the indoor trainer (3, 5 or 20 minute efforts become like a video game). I can’t recommend this investment enough! (more helpful than light wheels, fancy carbon parts).
2- I had the sense that most people in Austria were a bit behind in training theory: I did better each year at the Oeztaler by riding less and less, and then moved to Belgium and raced for 2 years on even less riding, while stronger than ever. You can train your “Functional Threshold” by going out for 6 hour rides, doing shorter intervals (like your 5minute ones, or even mild intervals that train your cardio, like 14x 1 minute at tempo pace), or 2x 20 minute time trial intervals, or just 2-3 hours at a brisk tempo pace. Much more fun, and doesn’t eat up all of your time. This is all explained here http://www.biketechreview.com/performance/supply/47-base-a-new-definition. (Comment Cycling Dad: The link to Bike Tech Review seems to have a problem… I can recommend Chris Carmichael’s book on interval training instead: http://www.amazon.de/The-Time-Crunched-Cyclist-Powerful-Athlete/dp/193403083X)
My best Oeztaler happened while doing no rides longer than 3 hours, aside from one other Radmarathon (Deutschlandsberg) the week before Oeztaler, just to get some practice sitting on the bike for many hours. Because you used to race, I think this would work for you too.
3- Having knowledge/experience really helps at Oeztaler, so talking to others and learning from them is great (Jurgen Pansey’s blog, bikeboard forums, www.jimmisteiner.com/?q=node/269, my first attempt www.joachim.ca/test/?p=38, my last www.mountainbiker.at/de/mlr_racers/show_report?id=598). It doesn’t matter if others are a bit faster or a bit slower, as the goal is the same (to finish strong, safe and healthy).
Sorry for the long email- this is stuff I learned through trial-and-error and from a coach that I wish I knew when I was 19 years old. I’m now living in Canada, and have a 2-year old, so no more Oeztalers, but I look back on that as the highlight of my cycling career!
So good luck in your preparation- I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes. Reading about your training rides around Wien and Moedling in the snow bring back great memories.
All the best, Joachim
and my reply:
Thank you so much for your email. Alex and I were very surprised to receive feedback from someone whom we did not drag onto our mailing list in the first place .
You are the first ‘outside’ visitor of our page whom we get to know. Nice to meet you!
Your message gives us motivation to keep training and blogging. Both has become a bit harder lately, with Alex’ pregnancy going into the third trimester, work keeping me extremely busy with the final sprint to the end of the calendar year, and Konstantin starting to crawl all over the place, wanting to be looked after.
Thank you also for your advice in preparing for the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon. The recommendation regarding the powermeter meets my open interest and I have been looking around a bit already, especially as the Garmin is ANT+ enabled. The link to Bike Tech Review that you sent along sums up the main benefits of threshold training quite well. As cycling parents, all of us are very time crunched. So getting most out of the limited time we can spend on the bikes is crucial.
And last, but not least I enjoy any personal story about the Oetztaler that I can find. Kudos for your 277th place in 2006 and especially the 50th in 2008!! I have visited all the blog links you sent along and have been to Juergen Pansy’s blog a couple times before. I also love Cervelover’s blog for all the detail he provides about his personal experience on the Oetztaler. If you can read German, here’s the link: http://cervelover.blogspot.co.at/2012/08/climax-beim-otztaler-radmarathon-2012.html. His placement most likely is closer to my own performance to be, if I can manage to finish the distance and altitude gain at all, which of course is my prime objective.
I have two questions that I would like to send back to you. The first: Are you still cycling these days? What is your experience today, trying to combine family, job and cycling? The second: Would you mind if I post this conversation in the blog? I really enjoyed your message, and would love to receive more feedback, also from other readers, in the future. Please do keep in touch.
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.
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
The past week kept me incredibly busy with work, but I managed to do some conceptual work on the entire venture and work out a master plan. My well reflected master plan includes two core elements: One, I may need to do some sort of physical training in order to get fit for the challenge. Cycling seems a sensible choice to start off with. Two, I may have to work on my nutrition. While the scribe is spending a (thoroughly non-sportive) weekend with the family in Budapest, Hungary, it came to his attention that his general food choices at the hotel buffet do not seem to support his aspirations to climb an awful lot of meters in altitude in little over 300 days from the present date. Unfortunately (for the master plan), the next week will also likely keep me very busy at work and see a long-planned leisure trip to Zurich, Switzerland… so something has to change… soon enough. The master plan also contains a few other positions, but it clearly is too early to talk about these yet.
I hereby solemnly announce the official start of the preparation program for the Big O for November 5, 2012. In the meantime, my objectives will be to work out suitable training and nutrition plans. Any support in doing so will be highly appreciated, be it in the form of personal reference, expert advice from British Cycling (thanks to our friend Axel from the UK), cooking recipes or other forms of motivation. Also, I shall work on improving the online visibility of the Cycling Parents blog in order to increase the moral obligation towards our esteemed readers. Oh and maybe I will even succeed in getting in the saddle…