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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

Cycling holidays (a.k.a. training camp) on Mallorca

It might sound a bit strange, but the goal behind all my training this year (so far) was to get myself into a good shape for the upcoming cycling holidays. While most of my cycling buddies (and here I mean those who are also taking part in amateur – but quite serious – competitions, known as the toeristenkoersen) went to Mallorca to put the last hundreds of kilometres into their legs before the competition season stars, I went there knowing that this might easily be the week where my season peaks (since now, two weeks later, I am not going to be able to train for almost a full month), so I wanted to be in top shape.

A few years ago I probably would have said, that I did a quite amazing amount of training leading up to Mallorca, but now, having many friends both in real life and on Strava who are at least as crazy about road cycling as I am, and who might have twice as many kilometres in the saddle by the end of the year, now I can only say that I did a quite respectable amount of training, but nothing exceptional. Time changes your perspective… Also, everything is relative. If you look at people who do not race, then this mileage is very good. It’s just that I know, that to be able to keep up with the best amateurs and race, I would need to train twice as much as I do, and I just don’t think I could do that and still enjoy it. And at the end, that is what matters to me.

2014_springtraining_overviewofpast

I want to be able to keep up with the stronger guys, but I must respect my boundaries. The key is finding the right balance between how good I wish I was, and how good I can be without an overwhelming training load. Especially that training is not only physical, but also a psychological challenge. It is not easy to go out every day, in bad weather, alone against the strong wind, especially when in the middle of February you feel weak (or, to be honest, you feel like a piece of crap), and to skip the afternoon snacks just to loose those two extra kilos after Christmas. It is mentally difficult. Telling yourself day after day, that you put yourself through all this pain to be good somewhen in the future (no pain no gain, as we all know) – which at that very moment in the middle of February seems extremely far away. Planning your days such that you make time between work and family for training, in one way or another, is not trivial. But then, after many cold and dark winter rides spent swearing into the headwind, usually around mid March, when it finally becomes warm enough to go out in shorts (even if with the extra protection of arm and leg warmers) for an intensive ride, you start to feel strong. And that ride, that ride is worth training for. Because after that ride you start to believe that you can do this, that given three more weeks of training you will kick ass. And that’s always a nice feeling. (Long transatlantic flights are good for letting your mind go.)

2014_Mallorca-1

So this year, we (a few people from WTCOOL – my local cycling team – and some girlfriends, most importantly Clio of course) spent a week on Mallorca with the Fred Rompelberg Cycling team. In practice this meant that around a hundred cyclists occupied a significant amount of the Grupotel Taurus Park, and each day we had group rides to choose from matching our individual fitness levels. Also, there were rental bikes provided on spot (Isaac Graviton Ultegra), so we did not need to go through the hassle of travelling with our own ones. After the first five days, based on the ridden kilometres, they gave the title of kilometre-king and kilometre-queen to the most worthy riders, which came with a small trophy too. I can already tell you, that the author of this post brought home a shared (with another Peter from WTCOOL) kilometre-king title! So how did that happen?

2014_Mallorca-2

For this achievement, we – first of all – always went with the fastest group (the speed group, or the fast tour group), and if the daily distance was less that 150 kilometres, then we (Peter and I) did a bit of extra. Then on Wednesday – which, by the way, was supposed to be the rest day – we did over 200 kilometres over a scenic route I planned across the island all the way to the northeastern cliffs. And to have a nice ending, on Saturday we did another 150 kilometres, which had more elevation gain than any other ride before. So actually the two hardest rides were the ones we made for ourselves. Although in terms of intensity, the first day was quite brutal. Then we went with a speed group of only 5 people, and thanks to the low number of riders, the crazy pace, and my rear brake rubbing for a half hour, we were all happy the next day to join the larger tour group instead… This training volume and intensity combined meant that we had to eat every evening as much as possible, which turned our dinners into quite a struggle too… (Same goes for the breakfasts…)

2014_springtraining_Mallorcawheel

In terms of form, I did well, although there were a few guys (especially Peter) who were better (especially climbers). But I was in the top 5, and I was very much satisfied with that. I finished the week with 962 kilometres, 9939 meters of elevation gain, and 34h 52m in the saddle, which if by far my best week on the road bike ever. At the end of the week, I was in the top 10 of Belgian Strava users! This of course made this April my best month on the bike too (1532 km, 11371 m+, 53h 53m).

2014_springtraining_bestmonths

We know that all nice things must come to an end, but when we arrived home we encountered something worse than expected. While we were on Mallorca, some people broke into our storage room in the basement, and stole our mountain bikes… (We got to know this from a mail in our mailbox – you can imagine how we felt: just arriving home, putting down our luggage, and reading our post…) Luckily it turned out, that thanks to someone reporting suspicious activity during the night when all of this happened, the police caught the bad guys, and had our bikes waiting for us to collect at the police station. So everything ended relatively well, the bikes were more or less unhurt, and soon we will have more secure doors installed (which by the way we have already ordered before all of this happened). As one would say in Hungarian: “Itt sincs kolbászból a kerítés“…

Halfway around the globe on the racing bike

Yesterday somewhere along the channel between Mechelen and Leuven, I passed the 20000 km mark on my racing bike. This is the distance I have ridden since I started cycling (as a sport/training – I do not keep track of the kilometres during commuting anyway) on the 20th of February in 2010. By the time I arrived home and finished the day’s ride, I was (virtually) over halfway around the circumference of our home planet. To commemorate this event, here are some statistics from the past years.

Between 20 February 2010 and 15 May 2013 (1180 days, or almost 39 months) I have the following statistics:

  • 457 rides (including very short ones up to and down from the Mercator telescope)
  • 20042 km (half the Earth’s circumference)
  • 711h 17m 06s on the bike (almost 30 days)
  • 126933 m of elevation gained (more than 14 times the height of Mt Everest)
  • 28.1 km/h average speed (674.4 km/day)
  • 159 BPM average heart rate (that is still in Zone 2 for me, so moderate intensity)
  • 88 RPM average cadence
  • 546431 Calories (or kcal) burned (almost 220 Guideline Daily Amounts for men)

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