Friday, November 27, 2009

Exploring Lion's Mountain (狮子山)+ Aggressive Dogs

This was a ride I did over a month ago and only went part way up the mountain and had to turnback since I had run out of time. I was keen to re-visit this area again to do some exploration since it was off-the-beaten track and very scenic.

Riding along the smooth cycle path Climbing on Xintan Road Bitan Diao Swing Bridge - Xindian

Getting there & ride description

You cruise down on the bicycle path all the way to Xindian and cross over the Bitan Diao Bridge (a swing bridge), turn left at the 7-11 onto Yong Ye Road(永夜路) and you climb for 5-10 minutes up through the valley. The road turns into Xin-Tan Road (Section 1) and there is a short fast down-hill that leads to a flat section through some residential and construction areas for several kilometers. Do not deviate from the main road (Xin-Tan) and you will pass the Si Yuan Bridge (left) and Xin Tan becomes section 2 and then 3. You follow the road up into the mountain, climbs steeply for the first 1km or so and then levels out for a nice gradual twisting climb that quickly becomes a one-lane very scenic country road. There are dogs dozing about and some rummaging through garbage, but they generally don't bother you. It is only when you get further up into the mountain is when you need to be careful about the dogs. They seemed to become more and more aggressive the higher I climbed or maybe it was because of my ragged breathing by that point! At about 600m, I ran into a couple of black dogs that lunged for me but I yelled at the top of my lungs to scare them away. This only made them run up the hill away from me, barking at the same time.

They then let me go past and as I went to go past them, they both bared their fangs and came within inches of snapping my heels. I was quite shaken, and they gave up after a short while but then started chasing me again. It was like I was being hunted by these two dogs. Fortunately they were no longer there when I returned the same way. For those of you that constantly run into dog problems whilst cycling here in Taiwan or anywhere in the world, there is an excellent discussion about how people handle dogs: Bicycle Riding and Stray Dogs. Highly recommended and interesting read. It definitely made me think about how to handle dogs here. Usually, I have enough speed in other places in the world to out-pace chasing dogs, but here with all the climbing you are easier prey to the dogs.

If you can come prepared to have run-ins with some dogs up higher and can confidently handle them, the ride is well worth it. Its a great climb that stays gradual for 5-6kms and then pitches up steeply at half-way point (where you see the waterfall on your right as you go over the bridge) it levels out briefly through a small settlement and then shoots up again for several minutes till you come to a cross-roads and a shop on your left. I took the left turn to ride straight through the village and continued climbing. Eventually you'll come to a colorful mural with two Gold Lion statues guarding the front steps. It was about 5 minutes after this point that I had the run in with the two dogs. The road keeps climbing steadily and there are some small roads that lead to no-where.

Great for exploring though! If it is a good day, you will see Taipei City sprawled out down below you in the distance including the 101 building. This is the reward for doing the lung-busting climb and getting past the dogs! I did not find the actual mountain peak, but one of the roads apparently lead to route no.7 which would take you over more mountains, and much higher in altitude, further South. On the way back to Taipei you can stop in Xindian by the Bitan Swing Bridge for a cup of coffee.

If you are a numbers person, you can check out my power, heart rate, speed, and elevation information on Training Peaks

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Xiaogetou - Xindian loop 60km

The sun came out today for the first time in a few days and was considerably warmer (26 degrees), so I took the opportunity late in the afternoon to go back up the Xiaogetou climb that I had done during the misty rainy weather this past Sunday with the 7th Park Bikeshop. Since I was on my own and had taken the previous two days completely off the bike, I was anxious to do some solid training and to see what the scenery was like with the sun out.

By the time I had gotten to the start of the actual climb on route 47, the sun had mostly disappeared in the low lying clouds and it seemed like some threatening clouds were on the way. The weather held out though. The photo above is the view that was covered in mist on Sunday from Helen's Mobile Cafe Shop.

I had planned to do a 20 minute interval as part of my workout and using the climb. Once through the tunnel and the first township, I launched into the interval and the first few minutes I felt like I was putting out too much wattage, and thought there was something wrong with my power-meter, so I zero'd it out a couple of times to make sure I was getting the correct reading. As it turned out, I was going too fast in the beginning and faded during the second half of the climb! I averaged 320 watts for the 20 minutes with an average heart rate of 170. Interested in seeing detailed data from Training Peaks, click power file. Once at the top, I took a breather at Helen's Coffee shop (it was closed) and took in the nice views before heading down Route 9 to Xindian. I was going to go back the same way I came, but I discovered that Route 9 ended up back into Taipei City via Xindian and decided to explore the new way. Once I got back to Xindian, after carving up the fast winding open descent, it was a nice spin back home along the river cycle paths in the sunset. It was better than weaving in and out of rush hour traffic on Heping Road!

Since I had only snacked all day, I was ravenously hungry (burned over1400 calories during the ride!). Jen and I went out for dinner at a place in the Shida Night Market that cooks your food in water. You can choose what you want on the plate by using tongs to pick up the numerous choices on offer to put into your little basket for the cooks to prepare for you. I got noodles, mushrooms, tofu, tianbula, cabbage, spinach, broccoli plus a few more that I don't know the English words for. It was a healthy meal since it was not cooked in oil and full of tasty vegetables.

A great traditional Taiwanese meal to have after an awesome training ride. We capped it off with ice-cold Pearl Tea (Zhenzhu Nai Cha). The total price for two people including the Pearl Tea was $200NT ($6.25). Price depends on what you choose. There are meat options if you feel like eating meat.

If you are interested in checking out the location of the ride, you can check here: Google Map. Rank on his blogspot has written up an excellent set of directions of how to get to the training route.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday Coffee Ride

On Sunday morning I went with the 7th Park Bike Shop on a great ride that left from the Taipei Zoo and up into the mountains. The ride conveniently started at McDonald's, so quite a few of the riders were eating breakfast there while I already had my Usana Nutrimeal Shake for my breakfast! It was raining for the whole ride, but just a misty kind of rain that left the roads completely wet; the bikes and the bodies were completely dirty after 3 hrs of riding in the rain!

There was about a dozen riders, all of differing abilities, who did the ride. It was very social and we re-grouped at major land-marks and at the top of climbs. It was quite an easy ride for me and I did some nice efforts up the long gradual climb on Highway 9. Its a very popular biking route here in Taipei that is frequented by throngs of weekend coffee riders, however, because today was wet we were the only group out riding! Thats something to be said about commitment.

At the top of the climb, we were all treated to wonderful coffee and waffles at Helen's Mobile Coffee. I enjoyed mine along with my favorite Usana's Oatmeal Raisin Bar.

The Cafe was specially equipped with racks for bikes and even has a floor pump for those who need extra air before doing the descent back to the city. Before we all got too cold sitting around in damp clothing, we jumped back on the bikes to ride down. Being the speed demon I am, I rode the descent pretty quickly. It was adrenalin pumping since there was a couple of times where I felt like I was going to slide out on some of the sharp slippery corners. I had braked as best as I could before the corners so to get through them smoothly without losing control!

Upon returning home, it was quite a task to scrub my legs of the grime that flicked up from the road after three hours of riding! Winters in Taipei look set to have consistent rain and showers and will make for some epic training rides! I will be making the use of rollers during the week for two reasons: 1. The amount of quality training that can be done on less time and 2. Less time spent cleaning my bike! After my two long training rides over the weekend in pouring rain, my bike needed a serious cleaning!

This ride brought my training total to 10.5 hours and 300km for the week. This coming week will be a recovery week after training for the past 3 weeks with high mileage (the week before I did 460km and quite a bit of hill climbs).

The same ride we did is described in this blog posting by David on Formosa who blogs about various topics pertaining to Taiwan. In the article he writes about this particular ride, he notes that there is a cycling boom going on here in Taiwan and quotes Bike Hugger:

During Interbike, we talked at length with Dahon about Taipei’s Bike Boom and saw it today. A year ago, when we rode the river bike paths, we saw handful of cyclist, including us. Today, there were bike traffic jams, bike pit stops, and a steady stream of bikes in both directions.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Inspirational Cycling at Sun Moon Lake

What you missed.....

Several weeks ago, after the Giant Cup National Race, Jen and I went to explore Sun Moon Lake by bike. We both had our road bikes with us and it made for a delightful 30km cruise around the lake amidst stunning landscape that would have inspired Picasso to no end during his Blue Period (according to Lonely Planet). Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan's largest fresh water lake and is ringed with high forested mountains that reach up to 800m high. It was a sunny cloudless day, however Jen was reluctant at first to jump on the bike as she saw how hilly it was - I managed to persuade her to attempt the 30km ride and we made sure we took our time stopping frequently to take in the many sights on offer. Biking around the lake is a very popular choice of activity as evidenced by the large groups of Taiwanese riding. We enjoyed hot steamed noodle for lunch on the main cobbled road at Shuishe Village which re-energized us for the push to complete the loop.

There is an off-road section for about 8km - Yuetan Bikeway - there is a cycle lane for part of it and then it climbs up through dense natural forest where you are riding off-road for several kilometres. The trail was smooth enough to still ride our road bikes on - but carefully. When the rest of Taiwan has bad weather, the sun is usually still shinning in this part of the country. It can be a nice getaway place for the weekend if you want to get away from the cities and unwind. We spent almost five hours on our leisurely trip including the stop for lunch, but if you are keen on cycling around the entire lake without stopping, it can be done in about 1.5-2 hours, however you would miss out on the numerous sights along the way.

We found an excellent hidden away outdoor cafe nestled among coffee and palm trees, not far up a secluded road that seemed off the beaten track (Zhong Shan Road). The Cafe was run by a Taiwanese couple who grew their own coffee beans all over the mountain area they owned. The price of the coffee and tea covered admission to the museum they have on display. We highly recommend this place if you can find it. The coffee they brew for you is a fantastic way to end your ride and the tea they serve has so much flavor. Jen loved the place so much that she wrote:

"What a wonderful, rare treat to stumble on this place. I thought I was stopping for a nice hot drink and what I found was so much more. From the beauty of one man's life's work, to the warm and loving hospitality. This is now my favorite spot in Taiwan; sitting with a nice view of Sun Moon Lake and the mountains, sipping red tea and coffee prepared by masters in their trade..."

For further information on cycling at the lake and how to get there you can refer to this website: Cycling at Sun Moon Lake.

Here is a good report about Sun Moon Lake found on Lonely Planet (not cycling related).

This has become one of our favorite spots in Taiwan. Will definitely be coming back and do some further exploring. A must see destination to include on your travel list when you come to Taiwan.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Training on Rollers

After a great spell of glorious sunny weather in Taipei that was perfect for exploring on a bike, the winter has now "officially" arrived! The mornings are noticeably colder and blankets are needed. It has been raining solidly since Monday and it has made the place lot less inviting for cycling outside. I did go out training on Monday for one hour when it was drizzling but the roads were quite wet and slippery.

On the way back home, the skies opened up and it just bucketed down upon me, totally drenching me but since I was already out there I actually enjoyed the ride in the rain with the millions of scooters, raising a spray of water on me as they zoomed passed.

When the weather consistently is raining and cold, you have to figure out if you want to train in those conditions everyday or retreat to train indoors; and only venturing out for those long endurance rides decked out in your warm winter clothing. I have been training indoors on my rollers the past couple of days and still managing to get quality workouts, much more effective than dancing through the traffic for at least 20-30 minutes before you can do specific training. Because you are pedaling consistently to keep your balance, you end up with improvements in your core, pedaling stroke, smoothness and balance. The workouts I do indoor are easily controlled and when not concentrating on hard intervals, I have been watching movies on cable television. As I don't have a picture of myself training on rollers indoors - I have included pictures performing warm-ups on rollers prior the Deaflympics 35km Time-trial

The workout I performed yesterday was similiar to a lactate threshold test (LT) that athletes perform in labs, the only difference was that I had no blood lactate tests. I have the Cycleops Rollers, a fan for cooling, Cycleops SL 2.4 powermeter and my Polar HRM as the key equipment to undertake the test. The test protocol I followed was: 15minutes easy warm-up followed by 10 mins of active aerobic pedaling. I then launched into 10 mins at 200 watts after-which I increased the wattage by 25 every five minutes. After completing 325 watts, I then did 390 watts for one minute just to see what would happen to my heart rate. Ended the test with a 15minute warm-down period.

I found that my lactate threshold was slightly better than the last time I had it tested. Previously my LT was 325 watts with a 164 heart rate. This time it was right around 330watts for a slightly lower heart rate of 160bpm. This power test can serve as a solid bench-mark to take my training to the next level.

To view the graphical representation of my workout, you can click here: LT Power Test

You will see the legend on the top right of the graph to workout what each line color
represents to work out which is the cadence, heart-rate, wattage (power), speed, etc.

Training is a great website to use
for designing your training program and for keep track of up-loaded statistical information from your polar, power meter, etc. You can even keep track of your nutritional in-take and workout your calorie in-take and expenditure. Check it out, a basic account is free for every one.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Carruthers Podiums in Taiwan

Taiwan National Race Series: Round #7

Podium prize giving for Elite 30s - 4th spot (six get to go on the stage)

Despite the qualification race for Tour de Taiwan being held in Taizhong at the same time, there was still a very good turn out of racers in the Elite category with Columbus, Cineli-Ritchey, Giant, Champion Systems all represented. About 100 riders lined up in considerably colder conditions than the race held two weeks previously in Dajia. This was also the last major race of the year as the season winds down for 2009.

Race strategy

My race strategy was to conserve as much as I can before the 17km climb at the end. I knew that if I burnt too many matches during the flat/rolling coastal section (48kms), I would not finish strongly on the climb. I needed to curb my natural attacking instinct, even when I saw good opportunities and concentrate hiding as much as I could from the prevailing winds blowing in from the Pacific Ocean.

There was a neutral section that went for a couple of kilometers before the flag was dropped right after emerging from the tunnel. A flurry of attacks went and I was up near the front just following wheels and found myself in an early split but again there was no organization to make the advantage work. It was back together again. There was a number of agressive riders trying to establish breakaways, including Columbus, Champion Systems, and Giant but none would stick. It was interesting watching the Taiwanese riders chase hard to bring back breaks but then sit up each time the break was caught. The pace of the race, after the half-way turn around point, slowed considerably and I had to exercise restraint and just coast in the pack. Conserving my energy. However, I did one thing that was against my plan and this was when the pace was going about 30km/h when I did a "fake attack". My intention here was two-fold: 1) to see what would happen, and 2) to Rev up the pace. I was positioned about 10 riders back and launched my attack, it was not one of my usual power attacks but it was still enough to jump clear of the peloton quite easily and then I kept riding at a solid tempo. I checked on the progress behind me, sure enough a couple of riders had made the jump with me but the rest of the pack was also chasing. So after riding at 45km/h for just over a minute, I sat up with both my objectives achieved. I had succeeded in revving the pace up and I saw that no-one was going to be let go easily. The pace stayed high for a while and about 5km from the turn-off for the mountain climb, the peloton started slowing again and a couple of riders attacked a established a good margin. Most of the racers were thinking about the climb that was looming and focusing on conserving energy.

Yangming Mountain Climb - 18kms

I had achieved my objective of conserving myself in the lead up to the climb for the most part, except the fake attack I decided to try mid-race. The average speed for the 48kms was 39km/h and my power average from the Cycleops CPU was just 184watts. So I felt ready to tackle the climb. Initially, I focused on following wheels and staying near the top 10 in the bunch. Once the incline became considerably steeper (about 3-4kms in) some of the key riders started going harder and splits started happening quickly. I bridged myself across to the lead group following a rider from Champion System but I was quickly in the upper-limit of my red-zone and could only watch as the eventual winner bridge up to the group of four and ride away with the race. I found good rhythm to climb with the second group of six riders including Spanish rider Inigo from the Cinelli-Ritchey Team. However, just after the half-way point of the climb I was caught behind two riders that got gapped from the group and I kept going steady in the hopes of bringing them back. They hovered around 30 seconds for the rest of the race duration and I was climbing with Inigo and a Columbus rider who was not much help at all with his surging back and forth. I think he was concerned with trying to get away rather than work with us to bring back the group up the road.

We were climbing pretty quickly - 23km/h, a good 6km/h faster than my training ride up the same climb which can be read here: Epic Training Ride with Power. It was a gradual climb of about 4-6% with a couple of steeper pitches, especially the section where the winning selection was made. I was focused on keeping a good steady ride up and keeping a good cadence level (avg'd 80rpm for the climb). About 3-4kms from the top, the three of us were caught by three more riders who immediately tried to surge past us on the inside opposite side of the road. But we kept them in check. The climb finished with a very steep 500metre dash to the finish-line. After surging several times over the last 2kms in response to attacks by other riders, I found myself leading the group to the turn. I then started sprinting up the steepest section (500m out) and immediately put a couple of bike lengths on my rivals. However, my left lower calf muscle seized up with cramp. This forced me to sit down and try and spin the rest of the way - controlling the cramp. I was passed by two riders when I got the cramp, but I held on to finish 10th overall (last paying spot!) and 4th in the Elite 30 category. It was quite a bit cooler at the top of Yangming Mountain (a chilly 10 degrees!). Luckily I was wearing my long-sleeved Skins as it helped keep the cold wind out and keep me warm longer. After sipping hot Chinese tea with ginger and a hot coffee, I made the long descent back down to sea-level.

Overall, I was satisfied with my performance and felt that my preparations prior the race and race strategy was almost spot-on.

Pre-race preparation

Since re-starting my training 4 weeks ago and stepping it up another level in the 2 weeks after the Giant Cup Race focusing on climbing really paid divendends for this race. Training consistently and with specificity is the key to improvements.

I also felt that my race day nutrition played a big factor in my performance. Below is a summary of what I consumed since rising at 5.30am:
  • 700mls of USANA Nutrimeal shake mixed with Peach/Mango Fibernergy
  • USANA Essentials, 4 x Proflavonal 90 - grapeseed extract, Biomega Fish-oils and extra Active Calcium (I also took extra Active Calcium the night before)
  • 1 x banana
  • 600mls of REV 3 surge
  • 1 x cup of hot Thai Tea
  • 1 x USANA Oatmeal Raisin Nutrition Bar (consumed 30minutes before the race start)
During the race:
  • 2 x 600ml bottles of REV 3 Surge
  • 1 x Hammer Gel (just before the climb)
By focusing on consuming low-glycemic foods, I was able to keep my energy sustainable without the crash or exhaustion that usually follows after a race. I still had good energy levels to ride another 30k at a good tempo to complete 100k for the day.

Climb statistics:

Distance: 17.94km
Avg speed: 23.1km
Avg cadence: 80rpm
Avg power: 330watts
Peak power: 1040watts
Time: 46 mins 20 seconds

I had also achieved my second best CP30 for the year with 344watts. Previous best was back in a race in Texas where I did 348watts for 30minutes. I am looking to build on my fitness with some more solid training, trying out a new 31 day program designed to increase my CP20 output. I have been using Training Peaks to track my data over time. I'm hoping to find a team to ride with for the Tour of South China Seas (Dec 27th-Jan3rd) which is a multi-day cycling race that starts in Hong Kong and finishes in Macau.

Holding 4th place Trophy with my wife, who is my best supporter!

Pretty podium girls had it hard all day standing out in the cold weather conditions

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Riding in Traffic and Deafness

Yesterday I visited the Hansaton Office here in Taipei to meet the Taiwanese representatives for the first time. Nicky was the main point of contact for me and assisted me with the adjustment of my hearing aids and made an appointment for fitting of a new set of hearing aids - with the award winning Espria system. It is the world's smallest hearing behind-the-ear aid and comes equipped with blue-tooth technology. I am quite excited to be trying out this new product finally. Although my fear is that it might not be powerful, for me (as my hearing loss is 90 decibels and higher), enough for general usage. It may be ideal for the quiet situations such as using the lap-top, television, phone and other media systems.
I won't be able to use this system whilst out riding, as it is too delicate and would be ultra sensitive to the sweat I put out whilst training.

People often wonder how I cope with being Deaf and riding in traffic. Often they are amazed that I would still venture out as in their minds, riding without hearing is dangerous. Most people rely on their hearing to hear approaching traffic, while I have to rely on my visual ability to survive on training rides amongst traffic.

Tips for riding in traffic without hearing:
  • Always be on the look-out and be proactive - I am constantly checking behind and around me for on-coming traffic
  • Be confident and use hand-signals/eye contact with drivers. You will find that most drivers let you into spaces if you let them know early enough about your intentions. When a driver lets you into space that they could have claimed, always thank them with the thumbs up gesture (works well in most countries)
  • Ride predictably and in straight lines. This works for hearing people too, although they can react to approaching noise by moving out of the way
For the most part, I don't have any major issues when out riding due to my hearing loss. Sometimes I don't even have my hearing aids on, but hearing nothing at all does not affect me. I will also race without hearing aids, depending on the weather (raining or too hot). Sometimes, I get yelled at in the peloton, but I have no idea what they are yelling about. I will wear one hearing aid mostly so that if someone does talk to me, I can at least communicate. In group rides, I will try to wear both hearing aids and participate in the social aspect of the ride as much as I can.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bikedan's Top Tips for Climbing

While I am not a great climber by elite standards as I often get dropped on the long climbs in the elite races due to my power to weight ratio. Most of the top climbers are razor thin and as a result can out-climb the bigger, heavier and more muscled opponents. However, if you can make it up and over the hill with the lead group or still within contact you can use your weight to your advantage to create momentum on the downhill to close gaps. While out training or riding with friends, I love the challenge climbing presents and enjoy the satisfaction of being able to conquer mountains and then let the adrenalin flow with speed on the descents!

While out climbing at Yangming Mountain, I kept noticing various riders whose climbing skills could do with some coaching including educating them the importance of a professional bike fit. I have come up with a list of tips for beginner climbers or those who have been climbing for a while but wonder why they never improve:

  • Bike fit: The importance of this cannot be understated. I kept noticing people's hips rocking side-to-side or wearing knee pads (they have a chronic knee problem). Taiwanese apparently have collected bad habits from scooter riding and many insist on having their saddle height low enough so they can plant both feet firmly on the ground.
  • Pedaling style: I saw alot of people mashing their pedals with extremely low cadences, some were doing 20RPM and using their upper bodies to propel the bike forward. It is important to cultivate a fluid pedaling technique. Start with the proper bike fit, and then practise high cadences on the flat - 95-105 RPM. When climbing long hills, you need to find a cadence that you can comfortably hold without blowing. I tend to find that I average 65-75rpm on climbs, sometimes dropping down to 45-50 RPM on the steep sections. Focus on high cadence and smooth pedaling will ensure you climb efficiently (this works well on the 5-6% steady climbs).
  • Relax your upper body - try to keep it motionless when seated and keep all the power coming from the glutes/legs.
  • Alternate your position. Mix your climbing with some out-of-saddle climbing with the seated, this will help rest different muscle groups.
  • Point your heels down-wards and keep your knees closer to the top tube of your frame, this will give you more power to climb as the glutes are more fully engaged.
  • Take the pain - this is often the difference when racing a climb, it is the person who can tolerate greater pain to surge ahead or just to hold on with the group whether in training or racing. Climbing for the most part is mental - training your mind to think positively about climbing will go along way to climbing success. This tip is good for those who are competitive.
  • Pacing - Don't go too hard at the beginning. I saw quite a few people attack the slopes and then steadily lose power and I would past and drop them forever. It is important to go out at a steady that you can maintain for the whole climb duration, reserving surges for the steep inclines and when the end is in sight.
  • This list is by no means exhaustive and there are plenty of books and internet resources devoted to the art of climbing.
If you want to see tangible climbing improvements, I would advise finding a climb that takes roughly 10minutes to complete and has a nice gradient of about 2-4%. Use this climb once a month, where you perform an all-out time-trial on it. Make sure you are well warmed up and mentally ready to put out a big effort. You can use your time as a measure for your improvements. You can also use the same climb to do several intervals during hill specific training. The aim is to complete each interval within 10-20seconds of each other. This will build consistency and a greater tolerance for lactate build up in your legs. The recovery in-between each interval should only be 2-5mins. When doing the interval repeats, its important to find that "sweet spot" where you are very close to your threshold. The goal is to complete all the intervals with similar times, heart-rates or power.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yang Ming Mountain Adventure

It is worth getting early starts for riding, especially epic riding like Yangming Mountain in Taipei. I think Taipei offers one of the best road riding in the world (once you leave the hub-bub of the city). You have brilliant long 16km plus climbs traversing through stunning scenery and because it was still early morning, you can hear the numerous birds chirping away (Yangming Mountain is also famous for birdwatching).

I zipped through the Taipei streets at 6am with Simon from Champion System Racing who happened to be going in the same direction but going to meet a different group. I met up with a group of expats from different backgrounds (Law, software development, education, teaching, editing, etc) and enjoyed a leisurely ride over Yang Ming Mountain with plenty of stops to re-group. I did get in several decent 5-10min efforts in different sections of the climb. I was amazed at the sheer numbers of Taiwanese out riding in the mountains, many of them sporting popular Pro-Tour team gear (Liquidas, Quick-step, Discovery, Astana, CSC, Francaise Des Juex, you name it, it was out there!). There were even several World Champion Jersey's spotted on the climbs, but most of their climbing abilities did not match the jersey's that were worn! The 7-11 store in Jinshan does extremely good business over the weekends as a refuelling station for riders heading back over the mountain (the same way) or going via coastal towns back to Taipei.

After hanging out at this 7-11 watching all the flash bikes and gear (but not the bodies to match) we took a quieter route back up Yang Ming Mountain (up Highway 7) and the roads were narrower, less cars and significantly less cyclists too. Unfortunately, halfway up this climb, my rear wheel punctured due to a hole in a one month old non-Michelin worn tire I was given during my Epic Ride in Taiwan. My USANA Oatmeal Raisin bar wrapper came to the rescue to act as a buffer between the hole in the tyre and the new tube I installed. A similar story can be read on A New Use for an Old Wrapper.
During the 5 minutes I took to change tubes etc, we noticed a dead completely flattened snake that can be viewed in the photo with my Selle SMP Saddle. I thought it was quite fastinating to see a snake like this!

The last 10mins of the 17.5km climb was done at an average power of 335 watts with a cadence of 65 and an average torque 27. It was quite a steep section to finish at the summit and I noticed how people were struggling to climb through it (some were even walking up) and thought it would be a good idea to write up some tips on climbing in my next blog posting. Once everyone re-grouped at the top, we hung out to enjoy cold drinks at the summit top outdoor cafe before riding down another fast 17km decent back into Taipei. If you are a confident bike handler, you can enjoy riding the super technical decent (with a few quite steep sections) but once you catch traffic it is hard to pass due to the narrow road.

I had made it back to the city and was on my last 10km stretch back home, when I punctured yet again! This time, I had no spare tube and was without cash. Was trying to figure out how to get home after being out all day, it was now 3.30pm. My actual riding time was almost 4.5 hours for just over 90kms but somehow with all the stops on the mountain including the coffee stops, it became a 10 hour day! I thought about rimming it all the way back home, but decided against it and made it to the nearby Shilin MRT Subway Station to try and get on the train without money! I was immediately approached by a guard who informed me in Chinese that I could not bring the bike in, but can go to the next station to take bike on MRT. I explained my situation to the guard, telling him that I could not ride the bike and if I put the bike into plastic bags it would be ok to get on. I also told him that I did not have my MRT card with me and about the possibility of getting on with no-charge or pay later. He called the manager of the station and she was quite adament that I would not be able to get on. I kept jabbering at her in my Chinese to explain as best as I could and when she saw that I could take both my wheels off quite easily, she got me some big clear plastic bags (one for the wheels and the other for the frame) and then she got me a ticket to which she told me that next time I passed through the station, I would have to pay $25NT. I was then escorted by the guard up the elevator to the platform, and it turned out that he was also a cyclist and was asking me questions about where I went today etc. I ended up becoming friends with the guard and exchanging contact details.
put my bike into plastic bags I can take it on the train
Overall statistics for the day:
  • 91kms
  • 4hrs 23mins
  • Average power 151 watts
  • Best 10min power was 337 watts (4.1w/kg)
  • Two major mountain peaks - 17km each - total climbing 32kms
  • Used up 2337 calories for the day - only had 1 x banana, 1 x Oatmeal Raisin Bar, 2 x REV 3 Surge drinks, 2 x bottles of water, 1 x coke, and 2 x Hammer Gels for the 10 hour day. I was pretty hungry by the time I got home!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Epic Training Ride with Power

Today was a fantastic day here in Taipei City and I wanted to get a good long training ride in. My last big training ride (apart from the 3hours yesterday) was the Epic Ride in Taiwan however this time I did not bonk or puncture. In fact this ride was one of the best and most scenic of rides I have done to date here in Taiwan.

I have included a snap-shot of my power file for those who are interested in power numbers and will attempt to refer to the graph in my posting. For a larger view you can click on the image.

The ride consisted of two decent sized mountain climbs - the first one was out of Danshui on Highway 101 up through Sanzhi (10kms) and this climb was also the one used during the Deaflympics Road-race. The second climb was out of Jinshan (opposite the 7-11 store) and climbed up over 16kms on Yangming Mountain Rd. I did both of these climbs at tempo to LT (latate threshold) power, you will see on the graph that my power (yellow line) along with torque (purple line) jumps up considerably. The data before the first climb was quite erratic with lots of surges and coasting due to heavy traffic in Taipei City. Once I was closer to Danshui, my power was alot more consistent.

Hill-climb 1 stats:

Distance: 9.5km
Time: 24:46
Avg power: 256 watts
Avg speed: 22.8km/h

After the first climb, it was a nice down-hill to the coastal highway (see the blue line for speed jumping up) and I concentrated on riding 200-220 watts along the flat/rolling coast road. Stopped at 7-11 to buy some water and chocolate milk tea as I had already ran out of my REV 3 surge drinks (my drink of choice during training and racing). From the top of the first hill to the Jinshan turn-off was 30kms in which I averaged 29km/h for just over an hour (average power was 173watts). The second climb was slightly longer than the Takaka hill climb in Nelson, New Zealand and of similiar gradient (some sections were a little steeper). I was starting to feel depleted of energy, so I munched down on my favourite USANA Oatmeal Raisin Bar during the lower parts of the climb. This snack gave me the slow sustainable energy that I required and I felt more power going back into my legs to complete the climb with consistent power.

Hill climb #2 stats:

Distance: 16.2km
Time: 55mins11secs
Avg power: 257 watts
Avg speed: 17.6km/h

If I was racing this climb or doing it as a max effort, I think I can do 320watts but not sure how to work out the time improvements. There is a formula that one can use to work out a potential time based on wattage, if you know please leave me a comment.

This was an honest climb that is mostly mental - you can go fast and keep your momentum going as it is not too steep. It climbed through the beautiful forest of Yangming Mountain National Park and there was numerous hot pools along the way -- could smell the sulphur in several places. It was sunny on the lower slopes and once past 3/4 mark, it was shrouded in the low lying clouds and quite misty. The down-hill (also approx 16km) into Taipei City was wicked with a top speed of 70km/h - could not really go faster since it was quite twisty curvy and on the lower slopes there was quite a bit of traffic to contend with, including crazy scooter riders who thought I was racing them down.

I stopped for some street food on the way home, perfect recovery food after riding for 4.5 hours and 120kms!

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2009 Giant Cup National Race

Waiting for the start of the race that was delayed over an hour!

Last weekend was the 2009 Giant National Cup race that was held in Dajia, very close to Taizhong. Since it was a national event, all the best Taiwanese riders turned out for the 33km event that was raced on a 11km circuit three times. Combining all the elite categories made it a total of 129 riders lining up at the start. 90% of the racers were Taiwanese with a smattering of foreigners from New Zealand, Australia, US, France and Hong Kong. It was my first race in Taiwan since the Deaflympics and I was interested to see how the racing would be compared to the US and back home in New Zealand. When the starting gun went off, all hell broke loose and we were doing 45km/h plus for the first 10-15mins. It felt quite dangerous at times with riders jostling for position in places that don't exist, raised medians on the middle of the road, combined with dodging some traffic as the road was not officially closed to traffic (except for the finishing area) made for some interesting riding.

An early attack by Olympian Feng Chun-Kai went up the road and two others quickly joined him. I saw they were rapidly moving away from the peloton so I quickly bridged across myself but as soon as I got there, Feng Chun Kai sat up. I went to the front and drove it for a few moments but no one would swap turns. We were swept back into the fold of the peloton. I kept my position near the front and kept watching for any moves that might go. On lap 2, the most promising break went with about eight riders including Feng Chun-Kai and a couple of foreigners. They looked like they were working well together and I attacked hard to bridge up to them. It took me nearly two minutes to make the bridge and once there, the break again was shut down and the peloton reasorbed the break a few minutes later. Going into the final lap, Feng Chun-Kai attacked again to open up a sizeable lead with four other riders. I bided my time in the peloton chase but with about 5km's to go I started responding to attacks riders were making and sticking to their wheels. They, however, did not last long and rapidly lost power and I just found myself surging over 1000 watts 4-5 times in the final few kilometres. Going into the final 1km, I was still on the front trying to find a good lead-out wheel but no one was really going for it. I was behind Feng Chun-Kai's team-mate who was slowing down, in attempt to stall the peloton's chase so that Feng could win. With about 6-700m to go, the break was swept up and there was confusion on my part as the break split in different directions. This was dangerous and I had to stop pedalling to ensure I got safely through, but my momentum was lost and the peloton surged through on the right side and I had no wheels to draft off. I did not even sprint as I had no sprint power left as a result of my efforts.

I finished 32nd overall and 11th in my E30 division. I felt that I raced reasonably well and featured in most of the important breaks except for the last one. It still finished in a field sprint with Feng's team-mate from Exustar winning. I only knew Chun Kai-feng, Craig Johns (a pro-triathlete from New Zealand) and a couple of others from the Specialized Team. Chun Kai-Feng I'd had met during the International Superweek in Chicago earlier this year.

In the picture on the left, I am enjoying a bbq'd squid as my choice of recovery food after I completed the hill-climb race. The hill climb report is here

To see travel pictures in and out of Taipei, click here The most recent ones are of the Shilin Night Market. I will be using this Flickr Stream for posting of my photographs.

For more pictures of the Giant National Cup Race, check them out here: Race Pictures