Sunday, 3 December 2017

Now I know why conquering mountains is so hard

After my Taiwan KOM Challenge I've been thinking a lot about climbing. What actually made it so challenging? What was it exactly?

Also my new experience riding extensively in the virtual world of Zwift has resonated the thoughts arisen after Taiwan.

It is not the climb (altitude change) itself nor the steepness that makes mountains hard to conquer. After all, it's just selecting a shorter gear and keeping power level such that one is able to maintain.

It is the fact that it is continuous work. Go a bit too hard and there's no way getting rid of the lactates (or hydrogen, to be more precise) in the muscles.

Riding a long uphill resembles running: there's no freeriding, no way to stop pedaling and recover. Of course there are other factors as well, like finding the rhythm, but the key is the continuous pressure.

Smart trainer and Zwift have changed my indoor workouts. Yesterday I did three hours. Here's a screen capture of that ride on Strava, first 50 km selected:

One of those lines differs drastically from an ordinary outdoor ride around my neighbourhood: the cadence. During the first 50 km, I've stopped pedaling only twice, each break having lasted about 15 seconds when I first opened the door for ventilation and then closed it.

The ride took 3 hours 12 min. My legs stopped rotating twelve times. Eleven of these were 5-15 seconds, once half a minute.

See the "-10" on the right hand side? This is a steep downhill and still I'm pedaling 67 rpm, producing 79 W. So, more or less one does work all the time while on a trainer. No wonder that some say 45 minutes on trainer equals 60 minutes on the road.

I wait the spring with great curiosity. Will this winter bring better results than those based on commuting to work. I expect to have more stamina and to be ready to ride the Sierra de Tejeda in February.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Turning the tide in winter training

I wouldn't have believed it last winter. Cycling indoors has felt like a dull duty – until now. Today I doubled what I've previously reached indoors: three hours. This time it wasn't even difficult or boring.

A smart trainer changes the traction depending on the road angle. My trainer is not the most authentic on steep hills but realistic enough to bring variety to pedaling. Also, the Watopia island routes are well designed, and having other people riding there too makes it lively.

This month I've been riding indoors 14.5 hours (two and half weeks). For comparison: last year my total hours on the trainer were 10.

The only reason that makes me wonder whether it'll be Zwift or some other platform I'll continue with in the future, is that they just raised prices 50–60%. It'll be 15 € / month from now on – except for the current members who can continue for the old 10 €/mo. one more year. I feel lucky to have started just in time.

If you did miss the cheaper train, remember that there are many other platforms to explore, eg. Kinomap, Sufferfest, VirtualTraining and BigRingVR, as well as Elite MyETraining and Trainerroad.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Ride on! Now also indoors

Today I did my typical ride around the airport. It was very different to ride 40k in +2° C compared to the 50k in Watopia – the virtual island in Zwift – in a +15° C room yesterday.

Indoor cycling doesn't end up with punctures as it does every so often outdoors because of all the sharp grave on the pavement during winter time. The toes I froze to black years ago do ache on every outdoor ride in winter. At one tight corner in Hommas I had a close encounter with a car. Such may have severe consequences in real life.

So, there are things that favour staying in a pain cave with a trainer. Only that it has been too dull and tedious for me.

I've bought a new trainer and created a Zwift account. It is the very first cycling platform that has hooked me to include trainer riding to my program. Check out the video I made yesterday if you're new to indoor cycling.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Zwift – pyöräilijän Narnia

Välillä tuli seurattua aihetta hiukan nenän vartta pitkin, välillä kuuntelin innostuneen kateellisena. Onko se edes pyöräilyä ollenkaan? Moni kirjoitti teknisistä säätämisistä ja bugeista. Päätin odotella, että tekniikka kypsyy.

Eilen avasin oven "Narniaan" eli virtuaalipyöräilyn maailmaan: yhdistin trainerin tietokoneeseen ja loin käyttäjätunnuksen Zwiftiin.

Tällä hetkellä minulla on perinteinen mekaaninen harjoitusvastus, jossa rulla pyörii takakumia vasten. Sillä olen kuntoillut ennenkin: katsellut CTS:n sisäpyöräilyvideoita vaihtaen välityksiä ja kadenssia saadakseni harjoitukseen vastetta.

Nyt Garmin-nopeusanturin data menee mittarin lisäksi kannettavalle tietokoneelle. Sitä varten piti ostaa Garmin ANT+ "dongle" eli USB-väylään liitettävä vastaanotin. iPadiin ei kuulemma olisi tarvinnut edes tätä lisäkikkaretta.

Pari kertaa piti käynnistellä Zwift-softaa uudelleen, kunnes se vihdoin tunnisti nopeussensorin. Inhoan näitä "inshallah"-tyyppisiä teknologiahämäryyksiä, jolloin pitää tyytyä räpläämään ja toivomaan parasta.

Sainpa sen kuitenkin toimimaan – nyt jopa kadenssi ja syke välittyvät. Tosin laittaessani itseni tauolle softa kaatui ja hävitti treenin alkuosan eli 45 minuuttia. Todisteeksi jäi vain tämä loppuosa.

Nyt sitten ajan kimpassa satojen muiden kanssa virtuaalibaanaa. Onhan tämä kivaa treenata yhdessä toisten kanssa. Vielä kun ymmärtäisi etiketin ja niksit. Kun osaisi edes peesata törmäämättä.

Perusta varsinaiselle tavoitteelle eli harjoitussimulaatioille on rakennettu. Saksasta on minulle tulossa viime viikolla tilaamani Elite Qubo digital B+ smart trainer. Älykkyys tarkoittaa sitä, että harjoitusvastus osaa säätää vastusta itse: kevyemmäksi alamäissä ja peesatessa sekä kiristää sitä ylämäessä tai kun harjoitusohjelmassa tulee käsky nostaa watteja.

Sillä aikaa kun fillaroin Narniassa, oikeassa maailmassa oli pilvinen tihku vaihtunut lämpimäksi auringonpaisteeksi. Onhan tämä nyt luksusta, kun voi valita missä lihaksiaan piiskaa.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Recommended: Taiwan

It was great to have a GoPro Hero Session 4 attached. I love to relive my Taiwan KOM Challenge ride, and it conveys what to expect to any of you who consider taking part next year. Above is the standard version. If you'd like to watch it while riding your indoor trainer, check out this version.

Oh yes, I do recommend! At least for me it offered just the right challenge and drama. Up to the Gas Station (2400m) I managed to ride reasonably well. After that the last 10 km was insane, and I was sure that I won't make it. Against all odds, I found myself riding it all the way to the finish.

Here's my ride in Strava.

Taiwan is a great country to bike. Taiwanese are polite and they are used to cyclists both in the countryside and in cities like downtown Taipei. 300 peaks reaching 3k is a treat I can only dream of here at home.

The Parkview Hotel in Hualien offered spacious rooms and the race organizers had put up an inspirational welcome party.

In this picture Scott Ellinger is presenting the big guns like Emma Pooley and Vincenzo Nibali (both to win next day), Cadel Evans, and the GCN duo Matt & Simon.

Even at the start line in the morning, 5.30 am, they had a show on stage to boost the moods and to wake us up. I bet many of us had had only few hours' sleep.

It's fascinating how people felt like belonging to one family. We encouraged each other, and felt we were sharing the burden – and the precious goal of finishing. When I was completely bonking just 100 metres from the Finish, some amazing people were ready to give me a push to get me going again.

Greetings to my great companion in the van going back to Hualien: Scott, Kerry, and Brian!

Friday, 20 October 2017

Racing against the broomwagon

Taiwan KOM Challenge was an insane effort for a non-racing cyclist from the flatland. I wasn’t able to follow my plan and started falling behind gradually. The 85 km of pure climbing was very hard. On sections of 18, 22, and up to 28% I had to walk and push the bike. Also, rear tyre kept on emptying and my Lezyne pump got into action several times.

After 70 km I knew that the broomwagon would pick me sooner or later as I wouldn’t make it before 1 o’clock when they’d close the Finish. For the last 5 km I just hoped they’d let me ride all the way. 

To my surprise I managed to avoid the broomwagon and the Finish was still open when I hit it 1.20 pm. The medal earned feels great!

More on this epic challenge next week when I’ll be back in Finland and can edit video clips and transfer Strava data.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Seitsemän kiloa myöhemmin

Elokuussa kirjasin Taiwan KOM Challengea varten muistilistaan mm. näitä:
  • elokuun alun 89-90 kg:sta kuusi pois
  • treeniin hiukan lisää intensiteettiä ja mäkitoistot 5...6...7 krt Malminkartano ym
  • Irlannin isommat mäet pari päivää
  • ajovauhtisuunnitelma

Yllättävintä on ollut laihtumisen helppous. Seitsemän kiloa on kadonnut kovinkaan kummoisesti yrittämättä. Vähän vähemmän suklaata, välipalan korvaaminen porkkanalla silloin tällöin, hiukan enemmän aikaa pyörän päällä. Sipsiä ja viiniä on nytkin perjantai-illan iloksi, joten ei tässä mihinkään kurjistelukuurille ole tarvinnut ruveta.

Elokuun alun jälkeen treenimäärä ja -intensiteetti kasvoivat oikealla tavalla, vähittäin. Kun sitten Irlannissa innostuin liikaakin enkä pitänyt sen jälkeen tarpeeksi taukoa, romahti "fitness" eli päivän kunto viikkokausiksi. Nyt alan taas olla ajokunnossa ainakin lyhyiden, parituntisten lenkkien perusteella. 

Pitkille lenkeille olisi ollut tilausta, mutta ne nyt sitten jäivät. Samoin oikeasti tiukat treenit jäivät Sen verran on pohjakuntoa, että uskoisin maltillisen vauhdin suunnitelman takaavan pääsyn maaliin saakka. 

Malminkartanon täyttömäessä ei kymmenen kerran toisto tunnu enää kummoiselta, ja viisi kertaa menee helposti, kun ajaa yhtä rauhallisesti kuin on tarkoitus nousta mäkeä Taiwanissa. Koska tasaisella ajo on samanlaista kuin ennenkin, uskoisin, että parantunut mäennousukyky johtuu nimenomaan painonpudotuksesta.

Pyöräkisaan starttaan usein kuin innostunut sonni kevätlaitumelle päästessään. Olenkin tehnyt hyvin maltillisen kuuden tunnin ajosuunnitelman. Sitä noudattamalla tahti pysyy koko ajan reilusti alle 700 VAM. Teoriassa suunnitelmassa on varaa kiristää lopussa, mutta voi olla, että alkumatkan rasitus ja loppuvaiheen jyrkkyys sekä vähäinen happi tekevät loppumatkasta hiipimistä. 

Tavoiteaikataulun mukaan hengitys vinkuu maalilinjalla klo 12:10. Tuossa varaa vaikka taluttaa, kun 2700 metrin korkeudessa tulee vastaan 27,3 %:n osuus, sillä maali on auki yhteen saakka.

Nyt pitää tehdä vastaava "laihdutus" matkatavaroille: meillä on puolentoista viikon reissuun pelkät käsimatkatavarat. 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

A ticket! My kingdom for a ticket!

I've tried to get train tickets for two people and a bike from Taipei to Hualien. Taiwan KOM Challenge will take place 170 kilometres from the capital where I will get my rent bike.

First, I was informed to go to a site for passengers with a bicycle, see above. It is not available in other languages. 

Google Translator does help, at least in theory. In practice, several options to choose between remain uncomprehensable to me.

Next, I tried to get passenger tickets from the main booking site that has it in English, too. First one has to know which trains accept bicycles. That's something I found somewhere but can't repeat it now, it was too difficult to locate. Anyways, after that is known, it's rather straight forward.

Finally, I proceeded to online paying. All went fine with my credit card until I had to confirm Mastercard that it is really me who is making the transaction.

The security server informed me that I have to insert the specific code that has been sent to my phone. Only that I've received anything. Next morning I made several calls to my bank.

All my information and phone number are ok in the system and they couldn't say why the code doesn't come through. Only thing they were able to do was to manually remove the restriction for the time we were on the phone.

Now, the Taiwan Railways system found my reservation with my passport number and reservation number. I entered all the credit card info and was to click to accept it, but all of the sudden the page refreshed and emptied all the fields. Maybe the form was open too long while I had the line open with my bank?

When I tried to redo the process, this time the system said that the reservation had been paid already. Only that it wasn't and no tickets were gotten. And no way to try paying it again, even though I tried with another browser.

I tried to do another reservation but now there are no seats available on that Thursday morning train that would allow bikes as well.

Photo from CC Yee's Blog

Our son studying currently in Taipei tried to help. He visited two railway stations in order to buy tickets there. On the main station he couldn't find anyone speaking English. On the Songshan station he found but the clerk's opinion was that it is not possible to take a bike to any train going from Taipei to Hualien on that day.
The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) has buried a very comprehensive bicycle policy beneath mountains of rules and red tape that makes accurately understanding it almost impossible. Nobody wants to translate it because nobody, not even the locals, can make heads or tails of it. I have even been to train stations where the person at the ticket counter and the person at the ticket gate have wildly different interpretations of the bicycle policy.
Of course, I'm not alone with this problem. Andrew Kerslake has written a blog post about this (quote above), giving very detailed information how to tackle this issue. That would have been godsend for me, if the site still had the same options to choose as in 2011 when Andrew wrote his text. Of course it has changed.

If I had the time, it'd be awesome to ride that 170 km, then to have some rest, and take part to the Challenge and ride back. It goes without saying that it is not possible.

Any help available? Comment or email me esko [at]