The Training in Spain – Aug 20

We were fortunate to get away to Spain for a couple of weeks to visit family at the start of August.    Flights were half empty and although we are away from tourism honey traps there was a noticeable reduction in visitors – I saw a stat that of 9 million who normally visit in Jun only 200k had come into the country!  Anyway it was nice to get away into the hills and away from the hustle and bustle to a small Andalusian Village called Melegis. 

And for me the relaxed starts mean training time!  Gracias mi amor! Gracias a todos!

1 Aug

I chose the delivery option this time for the bike, a BMC Team Machine 01 One, and took it straight out for a loop around the lake. This used to be the limit of my rides.  Scared of a mechanical, the heat, the hills and lacking bike fitness I usually rode well within myself.  This year I am carrying the most weight of my life but I have also done the most training through lockdown Zwift rides despite a blip in Jun so was delighted to set a new PR of 54:42 for the 19.3Km loop with 454m climb.  The region’s geography means that the route is actually just 2x 15-20min climbs with some descents.  It’s tough to escape the hills.

2 Aug

I awoke at 0630 and went for a run starting 20 min before sunrise but there was loads of light and no need for my newly purchased Decathlon headtorch. The idea was to test out some routing functions of my new GPS watch (Fenix 6X Pro Solar) but ended up messing it up by taking a wrong turn.  I learned the key is to navigate the course and if desired ‘race it’.  (But Mrs CW I wasn’t racing it honest ;-)).  11.5Km and 300m of elevation made a dent in the climb Kilimanjaro virtual race.  I don’t normally go in for that virtual rubbish but I’d signed up for the local 50Km Ultra (fingers crossed) after @My_little_runs on twitter recommended it when I bumped into her on the local loop so figured it’d be an excuse for training and it’s for a good cause.

I then went ride in the late morning which is a crazy time for a ride apparently!  It’s a strange ride, the Durcal, ACW, Albuñuelas  loop. It only has 657m elevation in 31Km so is comparable to the Mountain Route in your local pain cave except the profile is more broken up.  I always think of it as a ‘long ride’ despite most of my attempts being sub 90min. I think this is in part a mental hangup from when I started riding in this part of the world.  I was on an old steel framed Orbea which had an untrued rear wheel and 7 sprint focused cogs. I sometimes wondered if I’d make it down descents alive, or if I’d get stranded somewhere. Those days are thankfully behind me and I’m glad I can pay Cycle Sierra Nevada for the privilege of riding a perfect bike with power; far better than the one I own!

From Melegis there are no easy rides. Starting at 570m, surrounded by 1000m peaks and a minimum of a 15 min, 4Km ‘shut up legs’ wake up rides some rides automatically bring with them a certain fear. The climb all the way up to Durcal is 250m over 7Km, straight out the gate. Morning legs! There is a nice, fast, undulating ‘classics style’ section through Durcal (it was cobbled until this year – but proper cobbles which moved as you rode over them unnerving!) which has a natural water stop (with thanks from the cyclists) before a short climb before heading out past the Señorío de Nevada winery/restaurant before starting.  The road pitches up again adding 150m over 3.8Km at 3.8%.  This section was quite fun today taking 15 minutes so more of a ‘volcano’ effort.  Now it’s playtime, descending 200m at an average of 5% over 4Km I hit 66km/hr – a fun speed where I still felt in control (don’t touch the disc brakes)!  

Although the ride is nearly over there is still a sting in the tail with Camino Forestal Climb which climbs 100m in less than a mile, average 6% but with some 10% sections which are really unnecessary at this part of the ride. Luckily, unlike the reverse version of the route I get to descend the 18% sections which I am yet to get up without unclipping – will I break my duck this year?!  Going the other way the main segment is 2Km, 190m at 9% with a 1Km with an average 12% climb (inc 18%) and ticks 120m of the total off!  

Sadly, there is a short climb in the last mile to get home (and obviously it’s a downhill start going the other way)!

3 Aug

I was out the door by 0615 to avoid the sun.  I trail ran (if it’s a trail run you can walk lots).  10 miles with 750m climb in 2:15 to the summit of the small chapel of Cristo del Zapato a great start to the day but I was cementing my ‘crazy guiri’ status.

4 Aug

Today was a day I’d been fearing.  The goat path.  I had loaded my GPS and bought some lights from Decathlon so I could beat the heat.  I didn’t get started until 0643 so it was soon light.  After a 15 min climb to the next town and larger roads it was downhill all the way (700m) to the coast and then some easy peddling along the coast for breakfast in Almuñécar.  50km before 0900 and a long way still to go.

I had some toast with jam and café con leche before heading off onto the 41Km, 1300m climb which would be my longest climb off Zwift.  It is just shy of the Ven Top climb and my longest overall climb was the 240Km Five Dams ride in Australian in 2017.  

Despite picking a cooler  day, I had to hunt for some suncream as I realised on the descent I had left it at home but sleepy Andalusia was still waking up.  I got lucky at a petrol station with some SPF 30 which ‘included moisturiser’ “for the face” he told me as that’s what it said on the container.  I thought “Mate it’s going everywhere – I guess it’ll still work if it’s not on the face”!

It was a nice ride through the small towns of Otivar and Jete.  I didn’t fill my water bottles as there were wasn’t an obvious fountain and most places looked closed.  I knew there were some places on the way.  I hoped they’d be open.  I probably regretted that decision.  The valley was hot and as it was south facing there was no hiding my silky smooth freshly moisturised skin from the sun.  The road climbs steadily upwards past the Instagram favourite of Junta de los rios.  I was down to my last half bottle of water and was saving it in case I really needed water!  I knew I was at most a 30 minute downhill ride to water although the ride back wouldn’t have been fun.  I was eyeing up every building and stream bed for taps or drops of water.  I had a little 5 min break in the shade to lower my body temperature and then just as I thought I was out of luck and approaching the blazing heat of the open plateau a beautiful fountain appeared at 900m altitude.  I drank lots and filled both bottles.  Most welcome.

The next section was soul destroying.  From 80Km and 1000m the road undulated and even though I knew the summit was at 98Km and 1250m I kept hoping each false summit was the top.  “It tricks you” someone had warned me in the lower reaches.  Now I know what they meant.  Across the plateau I could feel the sun scorching my back and right hand side.  I reapplied suncream and tried to push on through it.  There might have been some life in the bars and hostels but I didn’t stop to find out.  The descent was on a good straight road through an industrial olive farm.  I stopped at a petrol station, grabbed a coke and some water and fired off a text home before heading off for the final 20km.  I had set up Garmin LiveTrack but think there were some issues with it talking to my old head unit and there wasn’t much signal so there was some *concern*.  After 7:20 (6:20 moving) I arrived back, safe, happy and in control.  I’d definitely felt worse after rides so it was reassuring to have completed the ride without bonking.  

Beach in afternoon/evening.  The same place I’d had breakfast at!

5 Aug

A rest day.  So naturally we went walking down one of the cool gorges there are in the region.  Los Cahorros.  Hanging bridges, overhanging rock and freezing waterfalls.  A great family walk.  A lot of value and interest in a 5Km, 2hr walk.  

6 Aug

I was feeling strong – the best I’d ever felt after such long rides so doubled down with a ride round the local villages of Orgiva and then to Los Guajares climb.  I used to be 5th on that climb. Then they paved it beautifully smooth and sent the Vuelta over it.  Both my times for the Cabra and Los Guajares are almost double the pro peloton.  I bet I have more fun!  Or 

“It never gets easier, you just get faster” – Greg LeMond.

74Km, 1450m climb.  I set some PRs but overcooked the start of the main 8.8Km climb (7% ave) and had to rest in the shade near the top having run out of water.  I descended into Pinos and got some water from the fountain and cruised home.  I had finally properly set up the ClimbPro feature on the watch and it was quite nice watch my progress up the hill.  I have noticed the watch/Garmin Connect overestimates climb during planning which is scary but one thing that is sadly bang on is the summit position both for height and distance!  

7 Aug

I correctly followed the route from 2 Aug and ran 11.5Km.  There was uphill walking but I loved the  downhill trail final 2km clocking 2x 4:01min/km.  

We went to the beach in the afternoon, I was nervous of burning but we timed it all perfectly.  Great food in a local restaurant and the kids loving the sea with their Spanish cousins.  We have to rip them out to be honest!

8 Aug

An easy 20Km ride around the lake.  Incredibly both GPS units had issues.  I managed to get a PR on one section I sprinted up (2min) but the rest of the rides was relaxed and I was ready to enjoy the local bar’s terrace.

9 Aug 

Complete rest day.  No alarm.  The kids don’t wake up until later in Spain, strange but welcome.  Maybe it’s in the air.  We are at 570m and I always feel the heat/altitude combination for the first couple of days.  Settling into the Spanish rhythm of life.

10 Aug

I chose to copy another ride I’d seen on Strava today.  An out and back to Guajar Alto which I’d never visited.  It’s nice little town through Guajar Farguit who were obviously upset to have had their town festival cancelled – music was blaring and some people were still up from the night before.  Better than previous years with broken glass all over the road.  I struggled again on the ascent of Los Guajares climb but didn’t run out of water.

This was a dog day.  I got chased by a dog in Pinos (I mean that one wouldn’t give in), had a scare in Guajar Alto (scary but territorial), and then there was another loose climbing Los Guajares that had been scared by the rockets from the fiesta.

In the evening we walked to Los Bolos de Durcal.  Another gorge walk to a nice waterfall alongside an irrigation ditch.

11 Aug

I got to explore something new today.  I went to Cañar which I’ve never been but the photos of the road are amazing.  Think Paso del stelvio. 

The switchbacks meander up and up with the main segment being 5Km at 7.2% taking 30 minutes.  It was great fun and a nice addition to my routes list.  I then had a donut (buñuelo) in Lanjaron before heading home.  Delicious.

12 Aug

An early start today as we visited El Caminito del Rey which is the famous a gorge walk which had to be closed for being too dangerous.  Now it’s ticket controlled and has fenced boardwalks.  It was still airy and worth the trip as the scenery is stunning.  

Afterwards, we drove to the centre of Malaga for lunch at El Merendero de Antonio Martin.  The tuna was incredible, almost like beef, and who knew it pared so well with a fried egg.  We they enjoyed the afternoon sun and the sandy volcanic beach of La Malagueta before heading home.

13 Aug

The day at last came.  


I’d already done over 2hours but it was still 16km and 1000m from this point to there!

Another couple of hours and 10Km to get to the high point. Veleta.

It was a real adventure. The highest peak I’ve summited and first time into the Sierra Nevada. There were plenty of unknowns and reading the information on the internet was useful but left gaps ‘fingertip feel’.  It was nice to see and feel the conditions. I’ll be back to run and hike the 3000s!  I didn’t feel tired but had to dig in to get it done, I could have turned around.

It was a real adventure. The highest peak I’ve summited and first time into the Sierra Nevada. There were plenty of unknowns and reading the information on the internet was useful but left gaps ‘fingertip feel’.  It was nice to see and feel the conditions. I’ll be back to run and hike the 3000s!  I didn’t feel tired but had to dig in to get it done, I could have turned around.

Total 6hr 30 on Garmin. 88km 2900m climb to summit 3398m. 44km up, 44km down – feels wrong to log descent!  Pico Veleta is the 3rd highest peak on Iberian Peninsula and claims to be the highest paved road in Europe (citation required IMO!) 

It all got a bit cyclocross (on the bus off, the bus) in last 3km. Very windy – front wheel almost went a few times. Very pleased to tick it off. Won’t hurry back past the barrier at 2600m, 30km with a road bike. I was inadequately dressed for 9deg (feels like 4deg) on summit. Didn’t expect numb fingers in a Spanish summer. Saw plenty of shooting stars during early start to take advantage of the cool morning. went past this high altitude training camp today.

In order of difficulty the things I was thinking about were: 

  1. Wind (really made me nervous on the steep, narrow road. 
  2. Cold – It wasn’t dangerous (unless I’d got blown off and got hypothermia).
  3. Water – Luckily it wasn’t hot because I’d started a little early for the hotels and shops to be open.
  4. Altitude? Not sure I noticed it to be honest.  I wasn’t up there long but it didn’t hit me like I thought it might. 

14 Aug

A rest day and celebration of a job well done.

15 Aug


A reverse of the 2 Aug ride.  About 90 min, 18 miles but going the other way the main segment is 2Km, 190m at 9% with a 1Km with an average 12% climb (inc 18%) and ticks 120m of the total off!  

This is a beast. 4x ramps of over 15%. Definitely got the HR up and I have never completed it without putting a foot down. Despite my weight penalty I managed it and that closed out a cracking training camp.

We spent the evening with cousins doing a bug hunt.  The boys loved it finding scorpions, spiders, frogs and lizards.   A great holiday with lots of fun family time and training. Gracias a todos!

And then it was back to Zwift for quarantine which we obeyed but we weren’t checked up on.

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