This weekend many Vancouverites and several Vegatopians prepare to ride GranFondo Whistler—a breathtaking 122K (76 miles) cycling race on the snaking Sea to Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler. 5,000 cyclists (in levels and speeds ranging from recreational to professional) gather to ride a route with grueling climbs and thrilling downhill sprints. We caught up with Vega Sport Brand Manager Mick Lim about what motivated him to start riding just one year ago, what his cycling training includes and what this race means for him:
When did you start cycling?
I am very much new to cycling. I just started at the end of August 2013. I was inspired by my coworkers who are such avid cyclists and speak so highly of cycling. At the time we were also doing our iThrive goal planning at Vega. One of my goals was to identify a really big athletic event that I would never think to do, and train for it. Running has never really appealed for me. So I said to myself, “You know what, let’s try cycling. What would be that one big event that I could have as a goal to train for?” My coworker Byron was talking about the GranFondo, which seemed to me like the perfect big, crazy goal. I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a teen and never a road bike. Why not?
Now that you’ve been cycling for a year what’s the #1 piece of advice you’d tell someone who is starting cycling?
Cycling is definitely a more complicated sport to pick up because of the amount of sports-specific equipment and apparel required. I recommend that people new to cycling to find some people that understand the sport and the type of equipment you need, and get their advice. Personally when I started, I did it with the intention of training for a specific event. There’s no way I could have done it on my own. My coworkers and friends who cycle were a big help, but I couldn’t just rely on them for everything. So I went to a training facility called Peak Centre for Human Performance in Burnaby. They’re very experienced in helping cyclists get better.
So how does one go from never riding to training for a long race?
In Vancouver, because the weather is often rainy and wet for most of the year, much of my cycling initially was indoors. I took 75-minute power-based cycling classes at Peak Centre during the fall, winter and spring seasons. I would bring in my own bike, which is attached to the CompuTrainer. Using this set-up allows me to precisely control the level of resistance (measure in watts) throughout the workout.
The program actually starts with a blood lactate threshold assessment to determine my individual power-based training zones. Knowing my zones allow me to work with specific workload targets in the classes, rather than relying on perceived exertion or heart rate. As my fitness improves, my workload targets go up accordingly! It’s great to experience improvements in such a specific way. Not just by feel or how long I can go, but by the amount of power output I produce.
It wasn’t until May that I started riding outside and taking outdoor hill climbing classes. When you’re on the trainer there’s no balancing involved. Since May, I started making significant strides because of the amount of time I spent on bike, getting a feel for it and putting in miles. My long rides over the last two months have been anywhere from 100 to 168K. In the last month or so, I’ve also trained on the Sea to Sky highway (where the race will be held).
How do you fuel long rides?
There was a learning curve that went with learning to fuel my better. Initially I would take a Vega Sport Endurance Gel every 45 minutes. I discovered that I needed to take one more like every 30 minutes. I also supplement with Vega Sport Energy Bars (Chocolate Coconut Almond being my favorite). I have Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator in my water bottle so that I stay well hydrated.
What is the most crucial element of your training?
At the moment I spend two days per week in the gym, working my full body. But that’s it. Most of what I’m doing is putting in the miles necessary to get my body used to the idea of performing at a high level for that long duration. I intend to spend more time working on my core in the winter—balance is such a key part of cycling and you need core strength to improve balance.
Because I’m new to cycling and endurance sports in general, my training was very much about embracing the pain and suffering. Especially when it comes to climbing up hills. There’s something cool about making that connection between your mind, body, your bike and the hill. It’s hard. There’s something really satisfying about when you reach that peak of the hill and you know that you put in the time and effort. It’s the closest thing to a runner’s high that I’ll ever get. But you only see that reward when you’re working hard.
The highway from Vancouver to Whistler has some long hill climbs. What helps you to push yourself up those big hills?
Yes, there will be a lot of climbing. Over 2000 meters of elevation gained to be specific. A big part of my mental headspace is trust that the training I’ve done is good enough. I have put in that time in doing lots of hills and I know realistically how much output I can give out, both power and speed-wise.
But, sometimes I pretend that my coworkers Byron and Collin are way ahead of me (which is often the case!), and that I’m trying to play catch-up. That helps motivate me to pedal faster.
You’re so close to completing your goal of racing GranFondo. Any specific time goal in mind?
It’s rare to find anyone at Vega who has a goal of just completing a race. So for me, I expect to finish it with an overall time goal in mind, in line with the pace that I have been keeping during training. On race day, however, anything can happen, so I also have a stretch time goal that I’ll be trying to hit!
What is the first thing you’ll do after GranFondo?
Enjoy Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator, followed by a beer! The finish line is close to the Olympic Celebration Plaze in Whistler. There are festivities afterward which I will definitely be joining to celebrate.