My first brevet

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Finally I did the century !!!

(sorry for the crap quality - 101.7kms)

Even though I am about a month late, I finally broke the 100km mark. There it is in all its glory :

(My fist Century - I may print and frame this !!)

Last Sunday I met with my friends (boardman, keoman, mongi, ttoppouzokypraios and zepellin, all Cyclist Friends) that we plan to stick together during the brevet. We begun at a faster than average pace and started the loops. To be honest I did not expect we would go for the full 100 as we started a bit late so I was happy to settle in the faster group pace.

It was the first time I rode that route with others. Riding alone is something I like as I can concentrate on my needs without having a guilty conscience that I am delaying the group. But riding with a group of good friends is a great experience - not only because it is both easier and faster, but because I was having a great time with everybody. We were six, and as we rotated in the 'mini peloton' I was having five different conversations at the same time.

The kilometres went by easily and at a steady pace. We were cruising along at about 30kph and averaging 25kph. I always look on my heart rate monitor to ensure that I stay within my aerobic zone, but now the test was to be able to speak comfortably without panting. We only made a couple of short stops either to fill up or to ehm.... empty and the good spirit and friendly atmosphere made riding easy and time just flew by.

During these long rides I am trying to understand my body better. I like to ‘play’ a bit while on the bike to check my ‘systems’. I may decrease a gear and spin at 95-100 rpm to see how my heart reacts to the higher aerobic load and how it recovers or I may put a higher gear and mash on the pedals to see how my muscles and joints react and recover. It is nothing structured or planned – just little games to make the ride more interesting. For example I may work my heart up to say 165bpm, and then start rolling and try to guess what my heart rate will be when I pass by the next signpost!!! I also imagine that I have two engines, the aerobic and the anaerobic and that I switch between the two when one gets tired – totally crazy but it works for me.

Understanding my body is something that I believe will be fundamental to the completion of the brevet. I am also trying to perfect other ‘on-the-bike’ chores such as stretching, taking out my mobile phone from my back, drinking, eating etc. I am not successful with everything but I am getting there.

And so we gradually reached the 98 kilometre mark. I was feeling very excited and any tiredness suddenly disappeared. 99kilometres....... I asked ..."Hey Savva, I am now on 99.5, how shall I break the century? Shall I do it rolling, pedalling, standing up or what? » You should roll he suggested but I engaged the Warp Engines – I shifted to the large chainring and started sprinting - 99.6, 99.8, 99.9....... I felt that my muscles were giving everything I had and actually felt the lactic acid building up inside me. Eventually I blew and could not go any faster but the computer showed the magic number: 100!!!!!!

I felt as if I had broken the sound barrier - although there was no sonic boom to tear down the houses and the glasses, I think I may have heard something!!!

Another kilometre or so spinning and we arrived at the cars. I am a very happy man indeed. Thank you guys!! Next week we are in for more?


Odometre : 975kms

Monday, January 23, 2006

Nothing major or exciting this week.

My weight is stable (unfortunatelly) and I spent some time in my 'training area' - 55kms on Saturday and 80kms on Sunday.

This time I did the runs at a higher pace - I aimed at a higher cruising speed of 30-33 kph. The 'almost century' of last week was a lot easier. I believe that I have started to developed a good base - I can see it when I compare my HR and speed on the same sections of the road. I will start putting in some higher intensitiy intervals over the coming weeks, and definetelly after the brevet I will change the focus of my training and start increasing the instensity and shorten the duration. I believe that by springtime I will be ready to step up a gear with my training.


Odometer : 838kms
Weight : 119kg

Monday, January 16, 2006

Still no century, but boy am I happy !!!

Some friends and I had planned to do the second leg of the route, from the Corinth Canal to Xylokastro and back to Corinth Canal - a total of 100kms. The group ride was set for Sunday morning, so on Sarurday I went out for a brief "warm up" - I went to my training ground and did a short lap of 25 kilometres. I included some brisk intervals just to get the legs warmed up. I have observed during these past two weeks that on Sundays I feel a lot better after the Saturday ride. I went home had my shower ate some carbs (not a lot) and went to sleep excited for the next day.

We met nice and early on Sunday. The weather forecast was not helpful and after a short deliberation of what we were going to wear we set off towards Xylokstron. Unfortunately the that pretty - we take the old "national road" which is really a narrow B-road going through villages but with a lot of traffic. At some points I felt uncomfortable as the cars behind us could not pass us so easily and that made me nervous. But to be fair almost all drivers were patient and polite. I believe it really helps that the see us as an organised group, with our colourful clothes and helmets - I feel that they respect us more. There is the occasional moron though who will honk and honk and then pass us at the first opportunity revving like an F1 driver !! I may need to practice my hand salutes as defined by the man himself. To make matters worse the tarmac was crappy. I almost fell into a pothole - I had to bunny hop over it (MTB is good for you).

We settled into a steady pace..... too slow I thought. We were doing approximately 25 to 28 kph but being part of a group makes it a lot easier. We covered the kilometres in this steady pace. In less than two hours we reached our destination but the clock only showed about 43 kilometres !!! Damn - we decided to press on until the 50th kilometre but unfortunately the weather had other ideas. It started to drizzle and the sky did not look very friendly. So we decided to turn at the 48km mark.

(Mr. B, me, Zeppelin, Dr. Abo - kerdosko is the photographer. All Cyclist Friends)

As soon as we turned around I realised why it was so easy - we had a nice wind helping us which was now against us. To be honest I got scared for a while but Mr. B, an experience racer, organised us into a small group taking turns in the front. WOW what a difference did it make!! It took us about 5 kilometres to get used to the changes and also to get comfortable in a tighter formation, but once we managed that it became very easy. We finished the difficult coastal section much quicker that I thought with no real effort. I had read about drafting but that was the first time I experienced it first hand. It really works.

After less than four hours riding time we reached back to our cars. The odometer showed 95.5 kilometres! Still no century for me but I was a very happy man!
(95.5 Aerobic kilometres)

Happy because:
  • Found it easier than I thought
  • I finished it and did not feel at all tired - no muscle pains even the next day
  • No major pains. The new saddle really helped. I believe that if I can get my hands on a top quality bib then I should not have a major problem.

The question I asked myself though was - "could I repeat it immediately in order to get to 200kms ?" At this point I do not have an honest answer. Honestly I think I need the miles I am going to put in for the next month. Perhaps I can finish it even now but it will not be easy.

This Sunday's ride has really encouraged me. I cannot wait until the 18th of February!!!!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

No century for KDK ....yet

The previous weekend was another 'missed opportunity'.

I really need 4 to 5 hours free to complete my Century - one hour to get to and from Marathon and to pack/pack and approximatelly 4 hours riding time (includes my short stops for stretching). It seems that to find 5 hours is impossible.

Saturday I spent the whole day in the house DIYing - my wife decided to 're-arrange' things and bought some furniture from IKEA. For those that don't know, IKEA is a fantastic store - good quality and value for money furniture with one have to assemble everything yourself at home.

So when the 'question' was asked on Friday "Honey, will you be able to help me on Satarday to finish our house" (bold are the keywords - married men should understand) I did not have any real choices. I thought that it would only take a couple of hours so what the hell - I would go to train later.

Well things NEVER go according to plan (my plan). We woke up on Satarday and when I said - "ok lets start" the trap was beginning to close and I could not do anything about it - "Oh, since you are here, lets go to the supermarket first to do our shopping and then we will start". How can you refuse ?

So we did the supermarket thing and returned home ... to cut a long story short what I thought was a 2 hour delay in MY plan became a full day's work. I put frames on the walls (5 minutes to drill the hole and 25 minutes to decide where to drill it !!!), shower curtains, assembled tables .... and by 3:30 I finished everything !! "Oh honey you should go now before it gets dark"

So by the time I arrived and started riding it was almost 5:00 and getting dark. I just could not ride until 9:00 so instead of getting annoyed with the way things turned out I decided to do my best. So I did about 2 hours at a brisk pace and called it a day... I would try for the century the next day. But was not meant to be. I overslept and lost the first hour and as I had to be home by only did bout 70kms.

Ι am very encouraged as -
  • It is getting easier
  • I am getting faster (at any given heart rate)
  • I hurt less !! (the new saddle has helped a lot)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Training Area...and a bit of History

As my aim is to build up a base I am riding in the flats. I aim to :

a) Increase my base
b) Get comfortable on the bike

In addition as the February Brevet is flat and there are no major ascends so its good to practice in similar terrain. During the week (if I have the time) I do short intense efforts (sprints / hill climbs).

The best area that I have found near my home are the Marathon plains - also called the ‘Gardens of Attica” since it is where most of the vegetables we eat in Athens are grown. Marathon is also where one of the most famous battles in history took place, where the Athenians defeated the Persians in the 5th Century BC. It is said that a soldier run from Marathon to Athens to inform his fellow citizens of the good news and died of exhaustion - and as a result the Marathon Run was created. So Marathon in addition to being excellent training place, it is also very inspiring with all this history. And after a couple of hours on the bike, believe me that my mind does drift to those ancient days.

The course I take is a big loop beginning and ending from the stadium's car park and takes me to Nea Makri, back towards the beach of Marathon (where I pass the burial ground of the ancient warriors) , then towards Schinias (where the canoe / cayak events were held during the Olympic Games) and through the Schinias swamps and back to the car again. It is 33 kilometres long and absolutely flat.

The advantage with this course is that at any given time I am only about 15 to 20 minutes away from the car so I feel safe to press on even in the bad weather we are having during this past month. The other big advantage is that because of the recent Olympic Games all roads of the area have been completely rebuilt and they are fantastic !! There is a 10kilometre loop that goes towards the canoe/cayak venue which is a 4 lane road, with full lighting but because it is in the middle of nowhere it is empty !! Its like a private road. Yes the Olympics have cost us Greeks dearly, so I am trying to make full use of my tax money !!!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


It is extremely difficult to stick to the plan. One day it is raining heavily, the other the girls need to go to a party, the next some other family commitment.... it means that during the week it is very difficult to find the time.

I am not making excuses for not riding during the week but having to balance the family life, the professional responsibilities and cycling is quite a handful. As cycling is not the most important priority in my life, I decided that it is the one that will make way for the others. I will enjoy the process and I am confident that in the long term I will be fine.

To be honest, I am not too bothered about that....what bugs me and annoys me is the fact that I do not lose any weight. I am trying but the scale seems to be stuck ! That is very frustrating - I am very cautious with what I eat but the weight will not come off. It is as if my body has revolted and is refusing to budge.

I did not put any weight over the Christmas period though so this is at least good news. The other good news is when people see me they always go "you have lost weight !!". The scale does not concur, neither the belt around the waist but my wife tells me that "I am changing shape" - anyway I will continue my way as it seems I am on the right track. It will take a lot of time though and patience. I am in no hurry.

The whole 'brevet-preparation process' brings to my mind a poem by C.P. Cavafy - Ithaca - I set it out below and hope that many of you will enjoy it.


When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

(Source : Translatum)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year !!!

Happy New Year! I am running a bit late with my updates as the holiday spirit took over me! I have not given up though – brevet time is closing in.

Bike wise the New Year’s weekend was good. I did not manage to break my first metric century as I had planed but … no worries.

Saturday 31.12 - By the time I finished all of my household duties, the time left for cycling was limited. I loaded the bike on the car and went to the nearby flatlands to attempt to break the 100km mark. It was not meant to be. I arrived at the parking lot and discovered that I had left behind my multitool and that meant that I could not adjust my new saddle. (I forgot to mention that in my quest to find a comfortable riding position I bought a Selle San Marco Regal, based on the excellent reviews by long distance riders.) I was really annoyed!!!!! I almost said £"!@$ it and lets go home” but I decided to ride - perhaps if I could find a hardware store or a gas station I could borrow that no6 hex key.

Well no-one was open on New Years Eve at that part of the world but by that time I decided to continue and I soon forgot about the riding position as I discovered that my cycling had improved compared to last week. I could maintain a speed of 28 to 30 kph and still be in my aerobic zone. That was a welcome surprise for me. So I kept going and going and going ....... yes I could maintain a descent pace. I did about 60 kilometres and I decided to call it a day and make my way home to get ready for the evening.

Sunday 1.1 - Woke up very early and by 8 o’ clock I was riding. It felt even better than the previous day’s ride. Perhaps yesterday’s ride prepared by body. I again maintained a respectable pace for about 55 kilometres and but again had to return as my parents were to visit us for the New Year’s lunch. I do not think it would go down very well if they arrived before I did. In addition my …. behind was a bit sore from the yesterday’s ride (with the badly adjusted saddle) so I decided to cut it short and head home.

I learned a valuable lesson this weekend - Always check your seat bag before you leave home! The parking lot is the worst place to discover that you have left behind your multitool ! I will definitely check all my stuff before I leave home for the brevet.