Friday, July 30, 2010


3 workouts this week in Dongguan.
Weather was very rainy but always when I was NOT running... so hot and humid as usual...

28/7: could not go out at morning... so I managed to do 9 km around my residential area in the evening...

29/7: 13km around the industrial area (well.. all the town is industrial area...) felt VERY awful.. maybe because of the humidity but after 30 minutes I was crawling. It is also true that all the road are paved in concrete which is really hard on legs... I felt the calves like stones afterwards...

30/7: for the first time ever I run in the 清溪森林公园 (forest park). I have been here already several times by bike but never running. I headed for a smaller road hoping to make some hill intervals.
As soon as I start the hill road .. a sign warns against snakes, bugs, spiders, etc...
10 meters later I see that a huge web basically is in my way with a huge spider right in the middle... I really did it in my pants because the idea of getting stung in the middle of nowhere was not in my agenda...
It looked like the one here... (next time I will bring a camera)..
... I was freaked out for the rest of the run and managed 11k but aborted any idea to running fast... I just kept my eyes straight ahead to look for webs/spider and friends on the path...

NOTE: slacking a lot on core strengthening and stretching... I really need motivation.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

27-7-2010 AT Intervals

the good thing about the school holiday is that I do not need to fetch my daughter to the school bus stop at 7.20am... so more slack for getting up a bit later.

- Shatin track: 6x1000m, with 2' recovery jog (back from finish line to 1000m start). Time around 3'32" average. Felt hard but manageable.
I am very satisfied of this first AT workout... (well, cruise intervals using Daniels' definitions)

- Lost 2.3kg of sweat ....during the workout.

Week 27 to 29 - 2010 Summary

Archived the first half of 2010, I am trying to focus on running only for a while.

Target: nothing in mind at the moment. Once I will get close to my former self on shorter distances (if possible), I will decide when and where to tackle a marathon again

Constraints: currently my right Achilles tendon is still slightly painful after some heavier workout. I can feel that is still a bit thickened.
I try to monitor the situation and keep going with my stretching, strengthening, etc.

Training Plan: since it is bloody hot and since I have the muscles a bit tight from all the cycling, I do not want to rump up the distance too much, but mainly focus on AT workout and mainly on "faster" workouts targeting the neuromuscular capability (strides, hill sprints, etc).
Nothing too hard, but is important that I can extend the stride and gain again a good muscular efficiency at race speed...

Training of the last 3 weeks:

- Wk 27: 31 km
- Wk 28: 43 km
- Wk 29: 61km

yes, I do not follow the 10% mileage increase rule...but

On week 28, we spent a nice beach holiday in Samui, Thailand and every morning I went for a good 7-8km run which was mainly a way to get back into the groove of training daily.

Honestly, I think that the Thai heat is easier to bear than the corresponding HK summer (at the same time of the day). I do not know if it because of the pollution, or because the lack of air circulation for the too many high-rises, but running in HK in summer is really a torture... after 20' I begin to crawl, while in Thailand I could complete decent workouts and it was almost pleasant (almost...)...

Friday, July 9, 2010

ITA: e' ora di cambiare scarpe

un "doveroso" post di "auto-riflessione"...
(guys, this time I write in Italian because it is more a kind of personal reflection... to translate, use this)

dopo una stagione sportiva dedicata forzatamente al ciclismo, e' arrivato il momento di decidere il programma per i prossimi mesi.

Per farla breve, penso che il ciclismo sia uno sport meraviglioso e che regala piaceri ad ogni uscita, ma e' anche incredibilmente impegativo come tempo necessario per allenamenti e attivita' accessorie, quindi incompatibile con il mio lavoro e il tempo da dedicare alla famiglia.
Il mio livello "agonistico" richiederebbe o di accontentarsi delle garette "attorno al campanile" che sono disponibili a Hong Kong, oppure di allenarsi ancora di piu' e lanciarsi in vere gare anche in Cina ed in giro per l'Asia.
Il mio team sta lanciando un programma di questo tipo (partecipazione a gare Elite in giro per l'Asia orientale), ma devo lasciare da parte la passione e ragionare serenamente e razionalmente.

Detto questo, e' arrivato il momento di appendere  le SIDI al chiodo e
di indossare nuovamente le Mizuno...

In pratica, basta ciclismo (se non qualche sgambata rilassante) e di nuovo al 100% podista.
Non voglio fissare un programma impegnativo (Maratona..) perche' il tendine destro ha ancora un punto che e' un po' dolente, quindi devo fare molto per gradi.
Se il tendine mi abbandona ancora, ovviamente sara' il caso di mettersi il cuore in pace con la corsa... ma se regge, voglio fare ancora un po' di stagioni cercando di essere competitivo e esplorando i miei limiti.

Infine, (a dimostrazione che il tempo passa velocemente) la bella notizia e' che a fine Settembre diventero' ancora papa'....
Dopo 2 bellissimi bimbi, mia moglie ed io abbiamo pensato che era un peccato fermarci li'... quindi ecco anche il terzo (di sicuro anche l'ultimo...)
In pratica, dalla mia ultima gara "vera" (7/12/2008) alla prossima saranno passati 2 anni e 2 bimbi....

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cycling Orthotics #2

As for this older post, I added orthotics to my shoes.
Honestly it took me a while to get the benefit from it, because the addition of orthotics changed completely the set-up of the bike/saddle/cleats/whatever... so putting the insoles in the shoes it is only the first step.

As I think can be useful for fellow "poorly shaped" cyclists, I try to summarize what I did (from the beginning):

- I have a severe degree of bow legs. Actually, the problem is even trickier because the kneed themselves are not too bad, but is the tibias which are terribly curved inward.
Obviously, the curve is not symmetrical in both legs...

- after a lot of hesitation, I gave up my fight with the hostility to idea of wearing orthotics and got suitable stuff from a qualified podiatrist.
The podiatrist worked out a shape for the insole so that the feet get tilted "outwards" to align the feet to the ankles and to the lower leg. The inversion of the foot is now compensated by the inside thickness of the orthotics..
(see the old post for close-up pics of the carbon fiber insoles).

- Now it is worthy to mention on HOW I was set-up BEFORE the orthotics:
the whole set-up was done with the purpose of trying to get the feet flat on the pedal. As for the natural shape of my legs, the shoe would land on the pedal only touching the outside. To go flat, I had to "compress" the system and push the feet as much as possible outward on the pedal as to give them enough "tilting" space...
bottom line, I was:
- very low on the saddle
- feet pointing outwards, while the ankles were almost touching the crankset
- cleats in the most inside position of the show (means feet moved outwards as much as possible).
- knees were always touching the top tube under effort
- the pressure on the pedals had a huge side components because of the shape of the legs. A lot of force was lost and also it happened often that my pedal axles got bent or the bearings got loose because of the non straight force application
- knees totally NOT aligned with feet on the pedal: feet were more outside then the knees and the knees were describing a oval during the pedal stroke.

Once I wore orthotics without changing the overall set-up, I felt "strange" and not really feeling major improvement.

So I went for a real bike fit from a professional and with some iterations, here the outcomes:

- the saddle height was increased 15mm (i know, it is huge... I did it in 3 steps)
- saddle brought back of 10mm
- complete change on the position of the cleats, which are now fixed in a way where my feet are no more pointing outwards, but straight and also very close to the crankset.
- on top of that all, I also added 2 wedges (from to give additional tilt to the feet and therefore even more alignment with the lower leg. These wedges are awesome idea and could really solve a lot of problems for people with leg/knee issues.
- to make the set-up easier, I also switched to Look red-cleat with more floating

All together, now the push from the legs goes to the pedal in a straight way and the whole system tight/tibia/ankle/foot works without too many dispersion of force (before, most of the muscle effort was spent in keeping the legs/knees/ankles in a straight line.. now it comes naturally because the orthotics and the wedges aligned the system).
Working with a "straighter" leg, also gave the opportunity to increase the saddle height to a better working angle for the knee, thus increasing also the power of the stroke.
I can not give a % of improvement, but my climbing times on some measured courses considerably improved after the changes...

Here you can admire the set-up (the wedges are those yellow)

Now I will need to work on further refinement:
a) the right leg is spot on 100%..
b) the left foot is still not striking 100% straight and I am considering whether either adding an additional wedge or further increasing the saddle height and change the cleat position
c) I will switch pedals to Speedplay (which are simply better...), also because my Look Keo are already showing signs of fatigue (bearing got loose because of the transversal component in my pedal stroke...).
Speedplay allow more cleat adjustment and the whole show/pedal interface is better.

Probably the best way to tune-up the set-up is to place the bike on the trainer in front of a mirror, stick reflective sticker on the knees, film the pedaling and go for different slight adjustement until you can reach a good alignement between knee and pedal or at least avoid many parassite movement of the knee (seen from frontal view).

For the HW, you can use any videocamera or digital camera with video function.
For the SW, I would recomment to download this program which is open source and do the job in excellent way.
I personally did not complete yet this stage, so I will keep posted once I have videos to show and the final results.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

HK National Champs Road Race - a report

Epic race....

A massive low pressure front hit HK in the weekend and Saturday the Time Trial was cancelled because of the rain.
So Sunday morning I woke up at 4am and it was glad to see that it was not raining; roads were wet, but it seems a decent morning for the race.
The course was in remote area of HK, with twisting downhills under the trees... in short, slippery when wet.

At the planned start time of 6am (yes... a bit early, but cycling races in HK are all dependant on the road closure permit from the Police... which is very hard to obtain... ), we were told to wait a bit more and that was just enough for a massive tropical thunderstorm to begin: rain start pouring down right in droves.
So we go for 7 laps of carnage...

from that moment on, my memory of the race is like one of those race TV broadcast from the motorbike where the camera lens is fogged by the rain and it hard to understand exactly what is going on...

here some flashes...

- after 1km, right when we are taking the downhill, a dog tries to cross the road... first round of slamming brakes, I was right at the front so I pass by and dive into the downhill..... at the bottom, I can see that my downhiller skills are still reasonably OK... I went down quite conservatively, but it was enough to stay well in front... while going down, I think to my kids and my wife at home and how much unpleasant would be to end up in hospital...

- at the first turnaround point, I am quite surprised to see that the group is already broken down in pieces from the downhill...

- first climb: pace is really strong. Obviously the Elite1 riders push the pace to thin down the group to something which is more easy to control and less dangerous. I struggle a bit but stay in the first group

- a lot of rain... we are racing right where the yellow zone of the Rainfall map above... 40mm of rain in 1 hour!!. Visibility is minimal, my contact lenses begins to float in the eyes because of too much rain. It is so strong that my arms are painful because of the rain hitting...
The descents are covered of rain and the road starts to be flooded in several points... I am really scared to go down at some turn.

- I do not remember too much, but after few more climbs and few more downhills, I turn back and I see that we are down to only 15 riders in the front

- on a climb, there is a sudden attack and I am too slow to react. I was already tired, but reacting that slow was a nonsense... so the front group broke into 2 and I am now in the 2nd group with other 4 riders

- more rain and more floodings... in some points the water was reaching 20-30cm and we are forced to go into the opposite lane to avoid going too deep. I start to wonder why they simply do not stop the race...

- after 4 laps (60km), I am really tired... I never trained more than 50/60km and I start to feel the distance.
In our small group we agree to keep going together to the finish line. We are out from the fight for the win, but still in honorable position. The leading group is in front of us of maybe 1-2 minutes.

- 5th lap... I am officially cooked up... the good proposition of staying together broke down on a climb and I am left alone...  I am really tired and also is really stressful to plunge every time into the downhills, because the roads are more and more covered by water and I really do want to avoid falling down, but at the same time I can not lose too much the last few Kms start wondering why I got the silly idea of resume cycling races... like I had not enough until I was 25...

- while completing the 5th lap, I was told that the race was stopped because of road conditions... God bless them...eventually...I just want to get changed and go home and forget about cycling for a while...

result: 11th overall

COMMENT: now with relaxed mind, I can say that I did a great race, for sure at 100% of my capability.
Looking at the results, ahead of me mainly Elite 1 riders (most of them are Pros with the National Team) , plus John T and Darren B (whose names do not need comments for local readers..).
All other Master and Elite 2 are behind.
So the 4 weeks of real training did really paid a dividend.
I am not yet competitive for the front of a Elite race, but getting near....

DATA SHEET: Garmin file for all you want to know...
For the whole race, I averaged 172bpm...which is an effort level higher than a marathon.. peak at 192bpm is which my real max for cycling... so for sure I did not spare the effort.
Average speed of 33kmh, which gives an idea of the difficulty of the course and the rain.

Total rain for the day: 150mm+ in the area (the race venue was right where the map is in brown...)

Nice race report from team mate HERE (the report is exhilarating when it comes to the story of the junior rider  who "drowned" into a flood)

Dramatic videos from action camera mounted on a rider
Video 1
Video 2
Video 3

As soon as I can find pics online I post something to give a better idea... (it was not really a day to take out a Nikon from her folder, but there were some photographers...)