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The year (2016) in cycling (and other sports)

2016 was the first year when my total mileage did not turn out to be a new personal best, but it was still the second year in a row when I managed to cross the imaginary 10000 km line (quite easily), and – most importantly – I had a lot of fun on the bike. The high point of the year was undoubtedly the Trans Pyrenees ride with Willem (which almost single handedly made June 2016 my highest elevation gain month ever), there is really nothing that could come close to that. Honourable mention is given to the 263 km solo ride to the coast which is my longest solo ride to date. I also got a cyclocross bike.

The raw numbers for my cycling – without the daily commutes of course – in 2016:

Total distance: 10559 km
Total elevation gain: 68667 m
Total time: 379h 8m
Activity count: 133
Average speed: 27.9 km/h
Average heart rate: 152.4 bpm (max: 194 bpm, but sometimes I did not wear my HR strap)
Average cadence: 87 rpm (but I only have cadence measurement on my road bike)
Average temperature: 11.9°C (~2.5°C colder than the past 3 years, with a 1.8°C December…)

And now it is time to look at some maps and figures. Let’s start with the maps of cycling I have done this year.

20161231_BelgiumMap

20161231_PyreneesMap

Out of the 133 activities, 72 rides were done solo, while a large percentage of the rest were predominantly Squadra Tornado group rides. In this sense, this was my most social year on the bike so far. My most common partner in crime was unsurprisingly Willem, with whom I rode together 47 times (a total of 146 hours in duration). Here is a summary table of the rides by bike.

20161231_Bikestats

I also did some running (120 km) and hiking (38 km), adding up to a total activity time of 401 hours, which is halfway between my numbers from the previous two years. I would be happy with the same in 2017 for sure.

20161231_VeloViewer2016

At last but not least, here is an overview of my yearly progress (in kilometres, including running and hiking too) throughout the previous seasons.

20161231_VeloViewer_Distance

20161231_VeloViewer_DistanceCalendar

The year (2015) in cycling (and other sports)

2015 was quite an amazing year on the bike. I have never ridden so much, so far, so long, and with so much elevation gain before. The main themes of the year were definitely epic (solo) rides and new roads. I have ridden also much more alone, because this year I did not join WTCOOL anymore. This is likely to change again next year as I have recently joined Squadra Tornado, a more racing oriented team. The past two months I have already ridden with them on Saturdays. Besides these trainings, I did most of my rides solo in this year’s interbellum, or with Willem, who joined me quite a few times.

Memorable events from 2015 (before we jump into the raw numbers and figures):

  1. I spent February working and cycling in Santa Barbara (Southern California, USA), and thanks to the warm and dry weather (similar to an average May/June in Belgium, but without the rain), in just 3 weeks I biked enough to make this month my 2nd best month ever on the bike (and my best month in sports if you add the three 10k runs I did before and after all the cycling).
  2. I bought a new road bike, a Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Di2. Since the beginning of March, I have ridden almost 9500 km with it, and I am extremely happy with the purchase. It’s a beautiful machine.
  3. I started to use a power meter on the bike, and although I would not go for the same Garmin Vector system again (because now there are better options in this fast evolving and still very young sector), I am happy to learn from all the data I record with it. (So now I know that I sprint quite good but my functional threshold power kinda sucks.)
  4. I did many epic rides, some alone, some with a few other guys, and one in a larger group to the coast and back just like last year. This Heverlee – Knokke – Heverlee ride was my longest ride ever with 333 km thanks to the small extra I did at the end (which made some people question my sanity). Other memorable epic days mostly on new roads include: a solo century around Santa Barbara with summer temperatures, an epic climb, and 5 bottles of water; a 223 km ride to Geraardsbergen in a company of six; 173 km of climbing through the Province of Namur with Willem over 2500 metres of elevation gain, a masterpiece of route-planning; Catching the Tour de France in Namur with Willem, not an extreme long ride, but very nice route, and just a day after coming home from observing on La Palma, so I totally died by the end; a 202 km solo over the Mur of Huy and the Citadel of Namur (a ride of total mental madness); and nicely fitting into the list of epic rides to epic climbs, a 210 km solo to Valkenburg (Cauberg) and back. In total I had 5 rides over 200 km, and 11 rides that qualify as at least a century (100+ miles).
  5. I have finished one very special challenge on Strava, the Rapha Festive 500, that challenges participants to ride 500 km on the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Normally we go to Hungary for Christmas, but this year we stayed in Belgium, so I thought I would give it a try. Although I got soaked twice, and almost blown off the road by the crazy wind a few times, I managed to complete the challenge with 6 rides in 7 days. The fact that the average temperature was more typical for April than December helped a lot of course ;) Thanks to the weather conditions and this challenge, I closed off December with 1095 km on the bike. That’s insane for a winter month (in Belgium, not in Southern California), and it is more than I biked in the previous 5 Decembers, combined.

And then the raw numbers for my cycling – without the daily commutes of course – in 2015:

Total distance: 11326 km
Total elevation gain: 70307 m
Total time: 400h 17m
Activity count: 140
Average speed: 28.3 km/h
Average heart rate: 152.6 bpm (max: 193 bpm)
Average cadence: 91 rpm

And here are the figures, coming up first the maps of cycling in Belgium, with a zoom in to the area around Leuven to show my most taken loops more clearly, and also a map of the biking I did around Santa Barbara.

20151231_BelgiumMap

20151231_BelgiumMapZoom

20151231_SantaBarbaraMap

Then here are the charts of the yearly progress in terms of distance and elevation gain, followed by – in both cases – a calendar view of the same metrics. (Figures from VeloViewer.)

20151231_VeloViewer_Distance

20151231_VeloViewer_DistanceCal

20151231_VeloViewer_Elevation

20151231_VeloViewer_ElevationCal

Then here is a figure from Golden Cheetah showing my Performance Management Chart since I have a power meter.

20151231_PMC

Then here I my statistics grouped by the 4 bikes I have ridden this year.

20151231_VeloViewer_Bikes

Concerning the social aspects, as I have already mentioned, this year I did many more solo rides compared to 2014. Out of the 140 activities, only 29 were not solo rides, and out of these only 19 were rides where I was riding with more than one person. When I was not alone I rode most often with Willem, on a total of 24 rides (a sum of 79 hours).

I did not want to put it on the list of memorable events, but this year I started using Rapha products. They are on the more expensive side, but the quality and the service is so good, the bibs are so comfortable, and the design is so clean and stylish, that it is totally worth it. I even tested their free repair service and it has exceeded my expectations (big time). So, if anyone needs a present idea for me, Rapha vouchers are always highly appreciated ;)

I have also ran 401 km this year (with quite some trail running on La Palma), and did some hiking with Clio, so at the end I had a total activity time of 451 hours (up from 350 hours in 2014). I am fully satisfied with that, and I am happy with all the achievements (see list of Strava challenges completed below) along the way.

20151231_VeloViewer_summary

20151231_StravaChallenges

I always wanted to have one year when I bike more than 10000 km, so now that I have achieved that, my goal for 2016 is more about quality, and not about quantity. I hope that in 2016 I will have even more self-supported epic rides, some good structured trainings, and maybe even a few races. The most important goal is to have fun on the bike :)

The year (2014) in sports

2014 was a great year, not only because of the nice holidays we had (which I still need to blog about…), or the papers I published, but also because I did more sports than any year before (a total of 350 hours of cycling, running, and a tiny bit of hiking). Before jumping into numbers and figures, let me review the main events.

Cycling: First of all, I bought a mountain bike - which was even stolen and found once since then (thanks again to the police and the people who spotted the suspicious activity) -, but so far I have not ridden it as much as I planned to (only 261 km in 7 rides). But it is very nice to ride through the forest with it, so I am happy with the purchase in any case.

2014_cycling_me

On the road bike, I had my longest ride ever (both distance and duration wise with 313 km in 10h 34m, see it on Strava for more), riding from home to the Belgian coast and back with several members of WTCOOL. Luckily, the route was totally flat… It was a great day, and we even had energy for a sprint along the channel around the 300 km mark. Crazy times :) I also had my heaviest week on the bike thanks to the holidays (a.k.a. training camp) on Mallorca with 962 kilometres, 9939 meters of elevation gain, and 34h 52m in the saddle, which meant that at the end of the week I was in the top 10 of Belgian Strava users! This of course made April my best month ever too (1532 km, 11371 m+, 53h 53m). Later through the year I participated in the 24 hours of Zolder (138 kilometres with a nearly 40 km/h average speed) and had a few nice organised rides in the Ardennes too (e.g., see picture above), with great company. All in all, this year saw me transforming from a lonely cyclist to a social cyclist. I still do solo rides, but it happens more and more often that I have someone else to ride with even at random times.

And then for the raw numbers:

Total distance: 8663 km
Total elevation gain: 45737 m
Total time: 301h 15m
Activity count: 108
Average speed: 28.8 km/h
Average heart rate: 152.5 bpm (max: 195 bpm)
Average cadence: 91 rpm

Here is a distribution of biking activities through the past years:

2014_cycling_curves

2014_cycling_distribution

Of course the speed is pulled down a little by the mountain bike rides, but I am not making a full table for all activities here. Also it is clear that leading up to Mallorca I did a lot of training, then took it easier afterwards, and there is a big gap visible in May, since while I was observing in Chile, I did not do any sports… Looking at the geographical distribution, besides Belgium I also biked in Spain (Mallorca), and for a few kilometres in Holland. Here are the covered roads (zoomable version on Strava):

2014_cycling_map1

2014_cycling_map2

Running: This is the first time I am writing about running beyond simply mentioning it (if I remember correctly), but by now I can not avoid admitting it, that I am getting more and more fond of it. I never really liked running, and before I picked it up as cross training for the winter at the beginning of 2013, I actually literally hated it. I have never had trouble running after the ball (I played handball for three years during high school, than a few years of floorball during my University studies and the beginning of my PhD), but running just for the running itself was really never my thing. I remember participating in an organised run (probably 2 kilometers or even less) around the age 6 (and I guess that was my parents’ idea), but that was it. I always hated the yearly two Cooper tests (running for 12 minutes) in school, and in general, I never understood how can anyone enjoy this…

Then, as already many times with other physical activities before (long distance hiking, cycling), technology had a big part in making up my mind. (I just need a gadget, and then everything is all right.) During the last days of 2012 I decided, that I need something to do when the weather is just too miserable and/or it is too dark to go for a safe training ride. I needed something I can still keep track of (preferably on Garmin Connect/Strava), so I pretty much ‘decided’ I would like running from then on (or that at least I would do it for the training, even if it sucks – at least it takes less time and preparation for a similar effect than cycling). I bought a running GPS (Garmin Forerunner 210), some running shoes (Nike Zoom Structure+ 16), and then I started running. I started easy, following an online training plan, building up from 5k runs (short for 5 km runs, but runners fancy the short version for some reason) towards 14k, which I managed already after a little bit more than two months. Of course I had a generally very good physical condition because of the cycling, but normally an unexperienced runner should not raise the distance so fast, because it will lead to an almost certain injury. I still did not like running that much, but it was nice to be able to do some sports even in the snow (and that winter was snowy until very late). Then as soon as the snow melted, I also pretty much stopped, except for a run here and there (Sydney, Rhodes) on conferences. I did the same during the first two months of 2014, runs between 5 and 12 kilometers (also during holidays and work in Grenoble and Geneva), but as soon as the weather turned fine for cycling, I stopped again…

2014_running_history

I think the biggest change came this autumn, when I started running again, but this time – beyond keeping my fitness level a bit higher during the winter – with some actual goals in mind: namely, running a half marathon, and participating in the annual end of year run in Leuven. Staring from October, I was running 2-3 times a week, first on La Palma at 2300 meters, then most often at work with my colleagues, mostly through the forest, and as my body get more and more used to the running, I started actually enjoying it. Since after one point I was not constantly suffering, I got time to just enjoy being outside, a bit more like how I enjoy cycling. Running is much nicer when your mind is not too busy about dying on the spot. Of course I run for the achievements, the feeling of accomplishment, the instant nirvana which a well executed run delivers. I feel exactly as it is written/drawn in one of the great Oatmeal comics here. (Of course this stands for cycling too.) And with the fun, and a new running GPS (Garmin Forerunner 920XT), the results also came: after raising the distance week by week, I ran my first half marathon on the 27th of November through the forest with two colleagues (it took a little bit longer than two hours, since one of the others were a bit sick, and we wanted to do it together, as we did all the training together). It was a great feeling to accomplish something new. Then soon afterwards I did a solo half marathon after work into the evening with a headlamp, where I improved my time to 01:51:29 (5:17/km), which is a nice PR for the future to improve on. Then after training even during the Christmas holidays in Budapest, I participated in the first running race since that Kids Run back in the previous Millennium: I ran the 12k Eindejaarscorrida of Leuven in -4°C, and finished 597th out of the 1965 participants. Not only is this a top 1/3 finish, but I also broke all my previous best times on 1 miles, 5 kilometers, and 10 kilometers with an average pace of 4:43/km. For me, this was a really amazing result, and I was extremely happy after the finish (but during the run too). I even ran home afterwards. It was indeed a great year of sports. I hope 2015 will not disappoint either!

The raw numbers:

Total distance: 456 km
Total elevation gain: 3917 m
Total time: 41h 29m
Activity count: 49
Average pace: 5:27/km
Average heart rate: 168.9 bpm (max: 197 bpm)
Average cadence: 180 spm

PRs:

400m: 00:01:30
1/2 Mile: 00:03:27
1 km: 00:04:19
1 mile: 00:07:04
5 km: 00:23:21
10 km: 00:47:01
15 km: 01:18:14
10 mile: 01:24:15
20 km: 01:45:39
Half Marathon: 01:51:29

Activity distribution for the previous years, and the map for this year around Leuven (not showing runs outside Belgium, for that, click here):

2014_running_distribution

2014_running_map

Fly me to the Mün (a Kerbal Space Program “review”)

I believe that grown ups can be gamers. I do not remember if I have ever written about this topic on this blog, but you might know anyway, that I spend quite some time in front of the PlayStation playing the actual FIFA series in my free time. In this post however, I will talk about something else. I stumbled upon Kerbal Space Program roughly two months ago, and I fell in love with it almost immediately. The game is still in development phase (version 0.21), with updates coming out roughly every two months. Since at this point it lacks carrier mode or missions, you need to figure out yourself what to do, but the main goal is running the space program of the Kerbals, who live on planet Kerbin in the Kerbol System. There are many stock parts available (and an overwhelming amount of community maintained add-ons) to build rockets, landers, rovers, probes, etc. But be careful with your design, because you really need to get your rocket science done correctly (definitely have the cheat sheet nearby, but I think without reading through and following a few tutorials, you will end up crashing your keyboard in madness), since the game is build on a quite realistic physics engine (although aerodynamic drag is not modelled too well so far). You will learn many things about orbital mechanics and actual rocket science while playing (thrust-to-weight ratios, rocket equations, deltaV values, using the navball, orbital manoeuvres, rendezvous and docking, interplanetary travel, aerobraking, and so on). And you are always in control, there is no autopilot. You control the thrusters, the staging, different parts, everything! But instead of going into any further details (which you can anyway look up on-line), let me walk you through my most advanced mission so far. It took at least 3 hours to design, build (using 167 parts), and test, and another 3 hours to fly the mission… (Yeah, long, lonely observing nights… I warn you, do not start playing this if you have only one hour to spare…) I present you Orion-2, a slightly altered Apollo-style mission to the Mün with three Kerbals on board. (Orion-1 was a similar mission, but without a buggy.)

Orion-2 sits on the launch pad, and for clarity I have labelled the different parts. The weather is optimal, there is some wind from the west, but the sky is clear, and lift-off is in ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four… [The game is available for PC, Mac, and Linux, and although the graphics are on purpose a bit cartoony, the following screenshots were taken at display settings which are far from maximal, so on a better computer, things look even much nicer - terrain quality is higher, textures are more detailed, shadows and lighting are better, etc.]

20131013_KerbaltoMun_01

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