Monday, April 23, 2012

Calabogie Race Report

Calabogie is a tiny resort town about one hour north-west of Perth, ON. Located on the shores of Calabogie Lake, it boasts some modest downhill ski facilities, a year-round resort, and a race track. Given that the town is  situated in the middle of no-where, I suppose it's a good place to put a race track what with the noise and all. The noise wasn't at all that bad though for the second of eight OCA O-Cup races. A year ago, this was Phil's very first road race so I had heard a lot of good things about the race.

It's about a six hour drive and 420 km from Brampton to Calabogie. Jon and I were up at sunrise, packed, and out of the house by 8:00 AM for the drive to Markham to meet up with the rest of the Kurzawinski crew for a 50k tune-up ride starting at 9:00 AM. It was only 55k but I found the ride to Musselman's Lake, tougher than it should have been. I averaged only 157 watts, which is indeed indicative of a recovery ride effort but, for whatever reason, it was an uncomfortable effort for me. Nevertheless, I got through the ride and by 1:30, following "breakfast" at MacDonald's, we were on our way to Calabogie. By 9:00 PM, after a stop in Belleville for groceries, we arrived at Jockos Beach Resort in Calabogie.

Phil had booked two chalets at the resort. One of the chalets served purely as a sleeping area while the other chalet served also as the communal kitchen, dining, and bicycle cleaning and repair area. Though dinner was served on the late side, it was good. Coach made a salad and some chopped steak, Andy fried some salmon steaks, I made spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and Jen made herself generally useful with just about everything. Phil brought out some of his Mom's home baked cookies. It was a good team effort. After dinner, Coach made us clean our bikes.

I had some last minute brake pad replacement to do and Jon's rear derailleur needed adjusting so now was a good time to do this. While Coach helped me to change my brake pads, Stan helped Jon with his derailleur adjustment. What should have been simple maintenance tasks quickly turned into a maintenance headache. Testing of my brakes following  pad replacement revealed a frayed rear brake cable. Coach had Stan take a look. The interesting thing about Stan is that, though he undoubtedly knows some really choice Czech curse words, he prefers to curse in English. So there was no mistaking the frustrating Stan was going through as he worked on repairing my brake cable. But eventually he got it working well before turning his full attention to Jon's bike. More cursing. Jon's bike derailleur was just not behaving as it should. "What the ..." Stan was getting frustrated again. And then the source of the problem revealed itself as the rear derailleur cable broke. It had been frayed and close to breaking which was the source of Stan's frustration at being unable to properly adjust it. The next problem was trying to remove the end of the frayed cable from the shifter. It was really jammed in there. More cursing! Eventually, Stan hit on the idea to loosen the rear brake cable and this allowed him access to the frayed cable end. Problem solved, new cable installed and Jon was back in business. I definitely owe Stan a huge thank you for the work he did the night before our race.

The alarm went off far too early on Sunday morning after what turned out to be a rather late Sat night. I got up and stumbled my way over to the next chalet in order to start breakfast going. I entered the "communal" kitchen to find Jen already up and making coffee. Trying not to get too much in her way, I gathered the things I needed to start breakfast and proceeded to make the pancakes and eggs. It wasn't long before Coach arrived to cook the bacon and make sandwiches and after wolfing down some breakfast and coffee, Phil, Jen, Dave, Martin, Jon and I headed over to pickup our numbers for the early race.

Registration went fairly quickly and we were soon on our bikes "warming up" in the parking lot. It became readily apparent that the North by North-West wind was going to be a factor in the race. The wind also made the cold a lot worse than it would have been. After only 2 laps around the parking lot, I went back to the car to keep warm reasoning that I could use the early laps of the race to "warm up". A big influence on my reasoning was my experience from the Good Friday Road Race, two weeks earlier, where I found the pace to be agonizingly slow. Mistake #1.

My experience from the Good Friday Road Race had influenced me more than I realized as it had given me the false impression that I was stronger than I really was. So in the days leading up to race #2, I began to think about how I could use that strength, along with Phil's strength, to forge a "break" from the main peleton. If you think about something long enough, it can seem like reality even if unproven. Such was my mind set going into this race. And, in part at least, it influenced my race decisions. Instead of my focus being on "hiding" from the wind and "keeping my powder dry" so to speak, I rode more aggressively, even testing the waters periodically with a few faux attacks. As it turned out, the dynamics of this race were completely different from that of race #1 and I made a number of mistakes.

Whereas, the race course of Good Friday RR was rectangular and hiding from the wind was easy, this race course was a highly technical 20-turn race course where hiding from the wind would prove to be elusive for all but the most experienced racers. Another major difference was the absence of the yellow line rule. At the Good Friday race, the yellow line rule had the effect of making the road very narrow and not easy to move up. Whereas this course, with its wide open road allowed riders to "move up" almost at will. This made keeping one's place in the peleton extremely difficult. A third major difference was the speed of the peleton in this race vs race #1. In the first race, the average speed was 36.2 kph compared to an average of 39.3 kph for this race. This race was much faster and it felt like it.

Mistake #2 was not making more of an effort to hide from the wind was due in part to the nature of the course, as described above. In part it was due to my being somewhat "gun shy" about merging with the peleton due to my crash during the 1st race. And in part it was due to my being overly aggressive during the early part of the race. Whereas the wind in race #1 wasn't really much of a factor, for this race we had a 25 kph N wind. And because of the many turns throughout the race, you'd have the wind coming from the left at one point and a few hundred meters later it could be coming from the right. Switching from one side to the other wasn't an option at the speeds we were travelling unless one was fortunate enough to be hanging off the back of the peleton (more on this later). This meant that, to hide from the wind, one had to ride in the middle of the peleton, sheltered on both side by other riders. I was not comfortable doing this instead preferring the comparitive safety of one side or the other. But this cost me in terms of not hiding well from the wind. I mentioned how the more experienced riders were able to find shelter even on this difficult course; several times throughout the race I noticed Martin staying up near the front seemingly effortlessly obviously sheltered from the wind. I would have done well to stay on his wheel.

Mistake #3 was being too aggressive from the start. In part this was due to the effort required to stay near the front and "out of trouble". As discussed, the pace was much higher at this race than the 1st. Also, you had riders taking advantage of the wide open road to freely "move up" at will and I found myself frequently having to go into the "red zone" in an effort to stay ahead of these other riders. On top of this, unlike race #1, there were several attempts during this race by other teams in the race to launch a break. On such occasions, the peleton would pick up the pace in order to "shut down" the break, once again requiring an intense effort to stay at the front. And finally, I my mind set of thinking I was stronger than I really am caused me to try a few efforts of my own to test the peleton's resolve and this too wasted precious energy as I took a few forays off the front. Such was the case that by the end of lap 6 of 11, I was feeling like this was turning into a really hard race and there were still 5 laps to go.

It was somewhere around corner 6 of lap 7 that I found myself at the back of the peleton. I had intended merely to take a bit of a breather but found myself quickly at the back. I wasn't in any hurry to work my way back to the front and decided to see what it was like back here. It turned out to be quite a nice place to be. For one thing, it was quite easy to hide from the wind. If the wind was a headwind, I had the whole peleton ahead of me to hide behind, If the wind was from the left, I simply moved to the right corner. If the wind switched to coming from the right, I simply moved over to the left corner. There was a lot of flexibility in hiding from the wind at the back of the peleton. I rode the rest of the lap at the back and conserved my energy. By the end of the lap, I started to feel like some strength was returning but still knew that this was one of those days where I just didn't have the legs. As we rode past the start-finish line though, I thought I heard Coach yelling at me to get moving and I cringed at what he must be thinking with me sitting at the very back.

For the next 3 laps, I sat at the back and had a free ride around the race course. It wasn't until the beginning of the last lap that I began to think about where I might move up for the sprint finish. On previous laps, I'd observed that the long stretch from corner 15 to 17 (see map above) would open up as the peleton tended to cut the corner at 16. This afforded a wide open space on the right where I was confident of being able to muscle my way to the pointy end of the peleton. While it would require burning some energy, I had been conserving energy for the last several laps and felt I had some energy to burn. About halfway through the last lap, I began to plan my attack, moving over to the right hand side of the course inching forward in preparation for my move. I was perhaps a third of the way from the back of the peleton when, just before corner 12, my plan came to a sudden stop. A couple of riders came together and at least one went down on the right hand side of the road directly in front of me. I put on the brakes (which thanks to Stan worked well) and came to a stop just before reaching the downed riders. I was able to stay on my bike, move onto the grass to get around the downed rider, and get going again but, being stuck in 53/12, it took me awhile to get going again and by this time the peleton was well up the road. I gave it a valiant attempt to catch back on, putting out close to 500 watts for over a minute, but it soon became clear that my race was over. In the end, I crossed the line with Dave (who had also got derailled by the crash) in 37th place.

As we crossed the line together, I saw Coach on the ride side just past the finish line. I was feeling pretty dejected, half expecting to get scolded but instead Coach was jumping up and down, excitedly screaming "We won, we won... Phil won!". I couldn't believe it. The winner of the Good Friday Road Race for the past 3 races was in this race and seemed really strong so anyone able to beat him had to be on his game. But Phil had done it. "This almost makes up for my terrible race," I thought. That thought quickly dissipated. No, it was still a terrible race performance. But Phil had won and that made me feel good. Congrats Phil!

Phil times it perfectly for the win.

So, it's back to the school of hard knocks next Sunday for the Tour of Bronte.

Phil accepting his well deserved win.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Good Friday Road Race 2012

The one thing I was leery about going into this race was getting involved in a crash. There had been a lot of chatter on the Canadian Cyclist Forum about the likelihood of a high turnout for this race and the fact that, due to the nice weather we'd had, that many people would have better cycling fitness than usual for this time of year. The worry was that, with the yellow line rule (riders are not permitted to cross the yellow line under any circumstances. Where there is no yellow line, riders must stay on their own half of the road), and field sizes of 100 or more, the race(s) could become dangerous as riders jockey for position, the danger being with this being the first race of the season that participants could be a little out of practice with the intricacies of riding at speed in large packs.

Larry Bradley, Phil Hodgkinson, and I would be racing in the same M3 category so we had discussed ahead of time the importance of lining up close to the start-finish line for the start of the race. After a rather brisk warmup, Jon and I made our way to the start-finish line where we met up with Phil. The Elite 4 category, which was Jon's group, were to start 5 minutes after the M3 category so Jon went back behind the M3 group to line up there. Phil and I took up positions behind a row of CHCH riders who looked to be dominating the front of the grid. I looked around for Larry but he was nowhere to be seen.

Larry lining up for the start of the M3 race.
As we waited for the start of the race, I went over all the instructions Stan had told me: stay on the side opposite the wind and "hide" as much as possible, conserve your energy, stay in the top 10-20 riders in order to "stay out of trouble". Eventually, the gun went off and we were underway. Since the wind was coming from the North, the correct strategy entailed riding close to the yellow line heading West and North but staying close to the shoulder heading East and South. The course was one big rectangle so it would be hard to mix this up.

Given the large contingent of CHCH club riders across the front of the start line, I expected them to control the start of the race but as we quickly got up to speed I found myself stuck behind one CHCH rider who seemed to be quickly slipping backwards. Because I was behind him, this meant that I too quickly slipped backwards through the field. Up ahead, Phil seemed to be having no difficulty staying near the front. It was surprisingly difficult to interject myself into the stream of riders to my left but I was eventually able to do so and soon passed the slower rider in front of me and was able to move up towards where Phil was.

About halfway along the Northbound edge of the course, there is a short but somewhat steep hill. The pace up to this point had been fairly pedestrian so I expected something to happen as we approached the hill. People around me seemed to shift into the small chain ring but otherwise we traversed the hill uneventfully. This small hill is immediately followed by a downhill and then a gentle ride towards 6th concession. The course gets steeper and more difficult once the right turn onto 6th concession is made. I stayed close to the front over this section of the course, close to Phil's wheel, half waiting for someone to attack.

The attack never came. Someone did move up on my left as we made this climb. It turned out to be Larry. As we turned East on 6th concession, I moved over towards the shoulder in order to "hide" from the wind as much as possible. Larry moved up towards the front and was soon leading the peleton. It's funny how "pack mentality" works but once Larry moved to the front, and with Phil and I both in the top 10, I suddenly found myself at the front behind Larry. It was as if the peleton was relegating control of the race to the three of us by right of us having three riders near the front. In retrospect, I think it might not have been a bad idea for the 3 of us to take control of the race but heeding Stan's instructions I dropped back a little and let others pass in front of me. To do so, I actually had to let a bit of a gap open up between me and Larry. Larry continued to pull the peleton for the rest of the lap; it wasn't until we made the turn onto 5th concession towards the start-finish line that other riders came around him.

Me and Phil staying close to the pointy end of the peleton.

In fact, one rider went around Larry quite aggressively and, thinking this was an attack, I jumped, quickly bridged up to the rider who had opened up a gap. I went around the break away rider, to let him know I was there, took a short pull and then flicked my elbow to signal him to come around. When nothing happened, I took a quick look behind me and saw that there were three of us and we had a bit of a gap to the peleton but nobody seemed willing to work to stay away and we were soon all together again.

Once the peleton regrouped, the pace slowed once again. I began to get frustrated. This was not feeling like a race at all. But I took up my place on the leeward side of the peleton and tried to remain patient. We turned North and the pointy end of the peleton were strung out along the yellow line but moving fairly slowly. With the right hand side of the lane fairly clear, other riders quickly moved up the right hand side and maneuvered their way ahead of me.Again I found myself slipping backwards through the field and in frustration I launched an attack up the right hand side of the road. After a couple of hundred metres, I looked back to see that nobody had followed me. Since it was inevitable that the peleton would reel me in, I sat up and waited for them to catch me back up. It didn't take long. Once I was caught, we resumed our agonizingly slow pace.

As we turned East onto the steepest part of the course, things seemed to pick up a little and I thought a couple of riders looked to be making a break but we were all brought back together in short order. In fact, shortly after descending the downhill along this stretch, the commissaire's car went by and put the brakes on our entire field in order to allow the Elite 4 group, who had started 5 minutes behind us, to pass. By the time the Elite 4 group passed by, we were close to Brock road where the course turns South. We made the turn and I dutifully moved towards the shoulder side of the road in order to "hide" from the wind.

Riding Southbound along the shoulder on Brock road, I again found myself slipping backwards through the field as other riders moved up the left side to take up positions ahead of me. Again I became frustrated that the riders ahead of me seemed content to allow this to happen and in frustration I moved onto the shoulder, passed the entire field and continued ahead in another solo attack on the peleton. A few hundred metres later I looked back to see I had opened up a pretty good gap but again nobody had come with me. A short while later I took another look to see that the peleton was reeling me in so again I sat up.

As we turned onto 5th concession once again, several riders appeared to attack but by now I realized they were just making it look good for the crowd of onlookers and these weren't "real" attacks. Once we passed the start-finish line, the slow pace resumed.

On the 3rd and final lap, I decided to try and attack on the gradual climb following the short hill. This section was into a headwind with a slight gradient so I though I might catch the peleton napping but, again, I was soon reeled in and back amongst the peleton.

Across 6th concession, I "sat in" and allowed myself to recover from my most recent "attack effort which, due to the hill involved, had taken my breath away somewhat. As we turned Southbound onto Brock road, the pace seemed to pick up a bit as people began to anticipate the sprint finish and began to jockey for position. Things began to get a little more hectic at this point and on a couple of occasions I felt someone lean against me for several seconds after getting too close. I wasn't too concerned. "Coach" had instructed us on how to handle this. I had my elbows out as Coach had instructed and for the most part the "touching" did not affect me.

It was about halfway along this edge of the course that the pace began to increase quite noticeably. The jockeying for position became more pronounced and I found myself needing to ride somewhat aggressively in order to maintain my position in the front 10. I'm a little unclear what happened next because I seem to have lost memory of a good chunk of it but something happened in front of me. What I do know is that the rider in front of me went down and I think I went over the top of him. The last thing I recall is some notion of going headlong over my handlebars. The next thing I remember was being loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher by paramedics with Jonathan at the rear door of the ambulance looking somewhat concerned.

On the drive to the hospital, the paramedics asked me several questions including what day it was. I was unable to tell them what day it was right way but I was able to correctly provide my home address. My stay in the hospital was short and sweet. I stayed long enough to get a Tetanus shot and a Cat Scan and was then permitted to leave. I still don't know whether or not I suffered a concussion but the scrambled state of my brain all weekend suggests that perhaps I did.

The road won!

So, first race done. Not exactly what I expected. I did everything I was supposed to do but still ended up on the pavement. Such is the nature of bike racing. Next race is Calabogie in 2 weeks. I'm looking forward to it.

Elite 4 Race:

3216374632WESTWOOD, JonKURZAWINSKI COACH/ PBNJ.CARMU23.41h 37' 22"11' 49"

 M3 Race:

Race finish - Phil came ninth.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Guest Blog - Exercise Away the Cancer Blues

Hi all!

I would like to present this guest blog from David Haas, an advocate for cancer patients.


Exercise Away the Cancer Blues

If you are someone who is in the middle of cancer treatment or you have just

recently finished your treatment, you’ll discover that exercise is one of the best
things that you can do for yourself. WebMD states that exercise will, among other
things, improve mood, reduce fatigue and boost your self-confidence. The truth
of the matter is that in many ways, exercise gives you more control over your
own body and a bigger way to take control over your own life. Consider how you
are moving towards your goals and consider what exercise can do to help.

When you are recovering from mesothelioma treatment, you are going to
discover that exercise might be the last thing on your mind. You have had to
deal with many different things in the previous few months, and you will discover
that with all of that going on, you might not be interested in stepping on the
treadmill or going to the gym. The key to this is going to be taking the time to
find an exercise that works for you. This might be a great time to try some kind
of exercise that you have never considered before. For example, consider how
you might enjoy the gentle nature of water aerobics or the simple relaxing fun of

Take a moment to think about where you want to be when it comes to exercise.
If you have never exercised before, this is a wonderful time to start. Cancer takes
away a feeling of vital control over your body while exercise gives it back. While
you are dealing with cancer, you find that you are too tired or too worried to do
the things that you love. On the other hand, when you exercise, you are going to
discover that you get some of that old energy back, and on top of that, you get
the endorphins that are going to help you get where you want to go.

What kind of exercise suits you, and how can you find the right type? First, start
by talking with your doctor and learning more about the exercise that will best
suit you. This is something that can make a huge difference when you want to
move forward with your health and your fitness. Consider what your options are
going to be when you want to get in shape after a long time away from the gym.
Remember also that you can work on your fitness at home. Whether you want
a weight machine in your basement or you would like to designate one of your
spaces as a yoga and meditation spot, there are some fabulous choices for you.

Take advantage of the many options that interest you and start your post cancer
workout today!

by David Haas

Monday, April 2, 2012

Post Analysis - Block #3

This blog analyzes my progress through the last of three 6-week Winter training blocks using the same fitness metrics used in blocks 1 and 2. I also evaluate how well I fared on my Winter training objectives. To be honest, I didn't really very motivated even to write this final blog in my Winter training series but for completeness, here it is.


Chronic Training Load (CTL) represents a measure of training fitness or, in this case, Cycling fitness to be specific.

Figure #1: Increase in CTL (blue line) over the 6 week period comprising block #3.

Figure 1 shows that CTL during block #3 rose from 94.5 to 103.3, an increase of 8.8 Training Scress Score (TSS) points. As was the case in blocks 1 and 2, this is a rather modest increase compared to the 5 TSS per week increase that frequent posters of the Google Wattage group recommend for ramp rate. But, as discussed in my block #1 post mortem, I was already starting from a comparitively high CTL level so there really hasn't been a lot of head room for me to be able to sustain a high ramp rate. I did, however, have a higher increase in CTL block #3 over block #2 which was also higher than the increase in block #1. It should be noted that my CTL value as of the end of my Winter training period is still about 9 TSS points shy of my peak CTL value of 112 from last season.

Block initial FTP increase in CTL 
Block #1 260 3
Block #2 270 7.5
Block #3 275 8.8
Table 1: Increase in CTL (measured in terms of TSS points) in blocks 1 to 3.

Table 1 compares the increase in CTL over each of my three training blocks. It shows 3-point, 7.5 point, and 8.8 point increases in CTL for each of blocks #1, #2, and #3, respectively, indicating my increase in training load has been progressive. My Functional Threshold Power (FTP)  used to calculate those TSS points was also raised at the beginning of blocks #2 and #3 (see Table 1). Since FTP determines my training zones, an increase in FTP at the beginning of each block meant having to pedal harder in order to hit my zones. Indeed, I did find the start of blocks 2 and 3 to be hard. But by the end of each of these blocks, my body had adapted nicely to the increased workload.

Zone Block #1 Block #2 Block #3
Active Recovery 24.2 13.2 9.4
Endurance 49.7 39.3 40.8
Tempo 19.3 28.2 33.9
Threshold 4.2 14.9 14.0
VO2 Max 1.5 2.7 1.1
Anaerobic Capacity 1.1 1.7 0.8
Table 2: Percent time spent in each training zone for blocks 1, 2, and 3.

Table 2 shows my distribution of  effort across training zones for each training block. This shows a slight increase in percentage (5.7 %) spent at Tempo with a little less time spent in Active Recovery. Indeed, the focus of my hard training efforts during block #3 involved lengthening the duration of time spent in the Sweet Spot (high Tempo to low Threshold) and four weeks of this six-week block were very structured towards that end. However, this 3rd block was also interrupted with a two-week stint in Florida where my goal was to simply get a lot of time in the saddle - a training camp of sorts with also a chance to spend some time with my parents. I did manage to accumulate 1,059 km during those 2 weeks with the majority of those kilometers spent in the Endurance to Tempo range. So, in fact, the percent time spent at Threshold during the 4 weeks of structured training in Block #3 would be actually higher than is shown in Table 2.

Figure 2: Total TSS accumulated for each six-week training block.
Figure 2 shows the total TSS accumulated during each six-week training block. What you see is a progressive increase in the training load I was able to absorb from block #1 through to block #3. TSS for block #1 average around 650 TSS per week which or just under 100 TSS/day. In block #2, that increased to an average of 700 TSS per week or 100 TSS/day. Finally, in block #3 I averaged 750 TSS per week or just over 107 TSS/day.


At the start of my Winter training program, I laid out some goals. In particular, I aimed to increase my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) by 30 watts from an estimated 270 watts to 300 watts. I had also a secondary goal to reduce my weight by 5 kg from 75.5 kg to 70 kg. Some dietary objectives that I set for myself included:

  • no refined sugars except during training
  • no coffee except before a hard or long training session
  • reduced wheat intake except in the training window (3 hours before and 3 hours after a hard session)
  • 1 beer per week
  • no "instant" food - if I haven't prepared it then I can't eat it
  • more fruits and vegetables
So how did I fare against my goals? The answer to this question is that I didn't even come close. Though I didn't do a formal test of FTP at the end of block #3, I gave myself an estimate of 280 watts as my FTP based on the tests I had done at the end of block #2 and how I felt in general. Regarding my weight loss goal, I was sort of on track up until Christmas. I had dropped my weight to 74 kg which was a start. But I indulged in Christmas treats and lost focus of my weight goal. I told myself that I didn't really need to drop the weight during my Winter training period and that in fact I might be better served to keep the weight on as I worked on developing more power. But in retrospect, this was a self delusion. I ate more than I needed to (see excellent article by Chris Carmichael on this: Cyclists Eat Too Much ). As for my dietary objectives, they lasted a mere 2 weeks. some of them were clearly unrealistic.  For example, there was no valid reason for me to eliminate coffee and instant foods and to reduce wheat. This was more of a case of jumping on the gluten-sensitivity bandwagon; I'm fairly certain I don't have a gluten sensitivity. There could be a case for reducing refined sugars and pre-processed foods but eliminating them completely proved to be too time intensive to even attempt. I did make a half-hearted attempt at more fruits and vegetables but I could have done a better job of this. As for restricting myself to one beer a week well, given my love for beer, that objective was ludicrous.

What would I do different? I have to say, by the time I left for Florida, I was sick and tired of the trainer. The hours on the trainer required to keep my CTL rising were beginning to take their toll. So what I will likely do next year is to take it easier in the Fall and allow my CTL to drop to a more reasonable starting point and maybe not even begin to do any serious interval work until January. Eighteen weeks of trainer intervals was just too much.

I didn't achieve my Winter training goals, ok, but was my Winter training effective? I'm fairly certain it was. In fact, I feel I've never been stronger on the bike for this time of year and yet I feel I have lots of room to ge stronger as the year progresses. Time will tell whether that's true of not, My first race is this Friday.