Monday, February 22, 2010

Ronde van Brisbeen 2010

What a beautiful day for racing! Except, you know, for the whole rainy windy thing on a technical half-mile course. Seriously, that was some horrible weather.

But it was the weather we had, and it was my team's race so I got a free entry for course marshaling. Might as well give it a try, right?

I'd been checking the forecast and saw well in advance that it was going to be crappy on Sunday (race day) but Saturday was going to be beautiful. So I went for the long fast ride (HOP) on Saturday and didn't shy away from getting a good workout. I specifically did this so that I had a great excuse for not taking silly chances on Sunday - if something was sketchy, I could bail on the race, and I'd at least gotten a workout for the weekend.

Given all that I really only had one goal for the day, which was to marshal the course ;-). A secondary goal was to not crash if I did race, or get cold enough that I got sick. I had no performance goals.

The rain let up a bit for the Master 35+ 123, so I went ahead and lined up. There were only 12 of us but I recognized two at least that I knew to pay attention to - Steve Reaney from CalGiant and Chris Phipps from MorganStanley. Had I recognized the ridiculously strong Chad Gerlach I would have done a bit better in the race but more on that later. I linked their results because they're worth checking out. These are extremely strong dudes.

Everyone is moaning about the rain on the start line, but good naturedly - seemed like we all had the right "be nice enough to each other so we don't crash" attitude. And off we went.

I remembered how quickly things went from the Cherry Pie so I was prepared to hammer. Reaney wound it up right from the gun, with Jess Raphael (who solo'd to a lap-the-field 45+ win just prior) on his wheel, and me on Jess's wheel. One thing about Reaney, he can just blow you up while you're drafting him on a course with this many corners. There just isn't enough rest - you're working almost as hard as him since it's constant accelerations. So Jess blew up, and I worked across the gap to sit directly on Reaney.

A couple of laps went by and now I think the pack was already broken into two pieces. Maybe more. We're still hitting 30mph on parts of the course. Reaney eases off the throttle for a second and looks back at me to see if I want to work. I think I either said "sorry" or just sort of gurgled in the drizzle I'm not sure, it's all a bit fuzzy. I certainly didn't throw down with a respectable pull or anything - I skulked. Sorry Steve. Maybe in March?

Somewhere around this point, Chad Gerlach, who I did not recognize at the time (major error) zips by and Reaney hooks on to him. Had I realized it was those two, I would have tried to latch on right away, but I was gassed and let the gap go just a the two strongest guys in the race. At this point, I'm looking around to see if there's a pack left I can hide in and it turns out there's only around 5 of us, with only one person looking like they're still alive.

I'm unclear how Phipps and one other person got ahead (did I mention it was raining? I could barely see) but they either went with Chad and Reaney and then were dropped, or they attacked the remnants before I noticed.

Either way, I was definitely "remnants". I rode with Steve Pelaez and one other guy (who then dropped), and we were basically a group of 2, behind a group of 2, behind a group of 2. Sounds like a recipe for pain, doesn't it?

So Steve P and I were busy lapping everyone else, holding the Phipps group of 2 at around the same distance, while Chad and Reaney were ripping around the course eventually putting a lap into us.

Steve and I managed to hang on to Chad and Reaney when they came around but the other lapped riders we had absorbed blew off again, so we were a mixed-lap group of 4 with 2 up, and other lapped riders suffering around the course by themselves.

We never caught Phipps unfortunately and Chad and Reaney didn't want Steve P and I pulling (can't blame them) so Steve P and I were in a non-sprint for 5th and 6th. Not that I would have beaten him anyway, Steve P did wind it up a bit and I didn't have anything to stand up to that. So I got 6th, sweet.

Here's a photo of Steve Reaney and Chad Gerlach in the break. Looks like fun?

So there you have it - a race that had it all. An encouraging result in that I got 6th place and was only beaten by folks that were clearly stronger than I was. A discouraging result in that I was only in the top half ;-). Miserable conditions but I handled them okay - no crashing, and I don't feel sick.

It started raining harder before the P12 race and most of Team Yahoo was going to be there (all of which are likely stronger than me) so I didn't pin up for that one. Turns out it cleared up for the race itself, went hard from the gun, spit people out the back regularly then outright broke into a front group of 17 or so and a back group of 16 or so that was pulled before it got lapped. Using the transitive property of race results, the guys I was with made it to the second group in the race so I could have gotten 20 something probably, and maybe held the first group for a 16th or something, but I probably made the right call not starting. It wasn't a DNF though - they listed it as that and I think a DNS is a different sort of failure and worth mentioning ;-)

There were only a few other brave Team Oakland souls that braved the muck, so I'll call out Anthony and Christopher - nice work out there, no crashes for you guys either and that's the most important thing on a day like that.

Here's the graph o' pain. You can see this is not a "steady state" course, it's all easing up into corners and motoring out of them, again and again and again. The two yellow lines are my threshold power and my 5-minute power, which explains why my heart rate was so high...

Other interesting stories - John Wilk did some He-Man work bringing back the #3 Time Trialist in the nation (#2 after Zirbel was popped for doping?) on the closing laps of the P12. Samaan bridged to the front group then won it, both impressive.

Lessons learned...well, I was prepared for the course and the early break this time, mostly, but I didn't understand my opponents well enough and I didn't realize how quickly it would get nitty-gritty with such a small field. I'll get better at knowing who's who as the season goes on and also hopefully get stronger.

Gear notes...I used my rain/commuter bike complete with fenders. Not fouling the race bike up with this junk. Worked well, 90psi was grippy in the wet per Gunderson's advice. With that much work and that much rain, Oakley half-jackets fog up.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Picking at a Weakness

Well if there is one thing I suck at, it's producing steady state power for long periods of time. Really tough parts of crosswind races where you can't get a draft. Long breakaways with just 2-3 people where you have to work a lot. And of course, time trials, where it's just you and the clock and how hard you can go.

If you want to expose a weakness for me, throw me on a TT bike, plop me on a flat or rolling course, and watch me suffer to do what most folks can do while texting their friends or watching the birds etc. It's pretty sad.

My only saving grace, in fact, is that I have a Ph.D. in Allallogy which qualifies me as an expert aerodynamicist. So I don't produce much power but at least I have low drag.

Put the two together and you have an intensely mediocre time trialist usually.

Today was no exception.

I did the Beat The Clock Time Trial, a practice/fun charity race raising funds for cancer. I did it in honor of my late father in law Merritt Futter, which he probably would have thought was funny since he wasn't much for endurance sports. But he was a good guy and he was quick with a laugh or to help someone out. Anyway it gave me something to think about and I hope it helped in the grand scheme of things. Merritt, this one's for you.

The race started at 7:47am for me, which meant a 5am wake up call on a Saturday. The things a cyclist will do...

So Toby and I loaded up the truck, got our numbers, strapped on the skinsuits and dork helmets and got ready to suffer like champs.

For me personally, I was looking to just hold threshold for 20 minutes on a rolling course, in an aerodynamic tuck, and I didn't quite succeed. There were a couple parts (uphills) where I pushed over threshold as a pacing strategy but I believe I pushed too hard because I didn't recover after them which left me with a lower average time.

Really I just need to be stronger though.

Some stats:

-- unofficial, 24:25 for 10.03 miles, 24.6mph
-- 525ft elevation gain over the course
-- 236W average power (easier on downhill saving for uphill, but that didn't really work out)
-- 178bpm average heart rate (topped at 183bpm)

Not so much power, and not so fast. Not horrible, but 9% off my 4W/Kg goal for the day, and 30% off my full season target of 5W/Kg (which makes me think that may not be realistic...we'll see)

I'll close by requesting everyone I care about to please be careful out there. Toby crashed on course and got quite the nasty knee wound. He's stitched up and okay now thankfully but it was sad to see. Take care of yourselves.

Here's the pretty chart o' pain:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cherry Pie 2010

Opened the season for real with the Cherry Pie crit in the Masters 35+ 123 race as well as the P12. Check that link for a P12 helmet cam shot, really captures the feel - at least from the back - nice!

The one thing I wanted out of this race (other than not crashing) was simply to see how I felt relative to others in the field. I think I am in pretty good shape on relative to myself from the past, but that doesn't mean squat relative to everyone else right? I also wanted to see what two top-level crits in the same day feels like.

Now that I've done it, I have to say, it felt pretty good.

There were early breaks in both races, and I wasn't in either of them (I specifically was avoiding them, actually) which meant the rest of the race was basically a formality for me and everyone else in the pack - trying to ride steady and set up for the sprint.

In the Masters 35+ 123 race the pack got sketchier and sketchier as the laps wound down, resulting in two crashes which seemed completely avoidable from my perspective. Knowing we were sprinting for 7th or something ("who cares?" in other words), and that I had a race to go I decided to get a full sprint effort in cleanly and go for the last lap flyer to see if it would stick, and at least avoid the real sprint either way. I got a massive gap (maybe 15 seconds? 20?) immediately, almost recovered, but finally blew up completely on the finish straight and was swamped on the final climb. That's all predictable, but hey, it beats a crash and shows me the sprint I can do at the end of one of these races.

The P12 was nearly as sketchy but the difference between it an Masters racing is that the P12 field doesn't crash after bumping a lot, it just weaves around and people apologize (for the most part). Sort of a civilized aggression if that makes sense. The break had 8 or 10 people (who knows - more than 5 really and it doesn't much matter), I had little cramp twinges (not full cramps) the final couple laps, and in the field sprint so I didn't get any sort of result.

I was able to stay near the front relatively easily in both races, so the fitness is there which is satisfying at minimum after all the work this winter

Lessons learned -

* in the top-level fields if you're not in the break, you're probably not in luck
* the breaks go pretty early - first lap or third lap, not much waiting around
* the last lap flyer never works but it is fun
* I've got the endurance to hang in these races and probably work in a break, but the high-end efforts need work or I wouldn't have had twinges. I expected that though as I haven't really done any high-end work

Some data -

* M35+ 123 - 26mph average, 20 miles, first three laps (break getting established) 27mph in the pack
* P12 - 26.5mph average, 27.5 miles, 27mph in the pack while the break was getting off the front there too, whole last lap for field sprint was 30+mph with stretches of 33 and 34 on the flat.
* Max speed on downhill corner was around 37mph
* Peak 5s 10s and 20s for me were 1096W, 1056W and 949W. I've seen bigger fallofs from 10-20 over the last couple weeks, so that means my initial sprint workouts paid off a bit. I won 2008 Timpani E3 cleanly with a 760W 16second effort, for reference, so we're making progress
* Average power in both races was hovering around 225W, which is semi-comfortably below threshold (255-260W) for me
* Climbing the 30-second hill took around 300-330W each lap though, for a "staying at the front" or "maybe passing a few people" climb speed, on 66Kg of weight
* Heart rate was bouncing between 168bpm and 181bpm around the lap
* If you still want more data than that, you're a serious junkie
* Seriously, there's no more data

So, things to do for me:

* Interval and sprint training for real (started two weeks ago, 1.5 months more to build)
* Take chance on breakaways - stay up front and go deeper to get in them. Go down swinging at least, right?

Monday, February 1, 2010

2010 Season, Let's Get Ready To Rumble...

Alright, so the masses (read as: my sole reader) demand new posts, so here you go.

What's been going on? Well, not too much - which is kind of the way I like it sometimes, especially after so many interesting times the last couple years. The last couple months, really since around October, have been very relaxed which lets me focus on some long-term goals, like developing completely pointless amounts of power on my bicycle.

To that end, I've settled back into my bike-commuting schedule (yes, even in the rain, much to my beloved wife's dismay) and have retrained from all the time off last year. In fact, from a foundation-laying perspective my endurance at this point is better than I ever remember it. I haven't surpassed my biggest week ever (that was on a Tour de France cyclo-touring trip - worth every penny if you ever get the chance), but I'm consistently getting over 300 miles a week and my body's gotten used to it.

Here's the charts-n-graphs for the data oriented

That's the weekly riding, which is a lot of stress on this old body (I'm a Master now by the way, so I can say that).

It feeds into short-term fatigue and long-term fitness though, and here's how those two things play out, with the 20 best 5-second, 1-minute, 5-minute and 20-minute points plotted on them. No peaking yet so my "Training Stress Balance" (aka "form") is pretty much non-existent - I'm fatigued - but my base level of fitness is very high at this point

And that performance management chart, which helps keep me from overdoing it and getting sick or injured or burning out is feeding into an ever-improving ability to produce power for different durations. At this point my power curve looks about like it did when I was doing well in 3s races, and I think with a month or two of interval work I can move it up to be competitive in P12 and M35+-123 races.

One can hope!

This last Sunday was the last day in the pre-season Early Birds criterium training series, which I have had the joy of being a mentor (3rd year) and a guest speaker (first time!) in this year. I hope I have helped make the racing a little safer for new folks this year, as that's the goal. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and they're great training days.

My typical weekend involved trying to get a century in on Saturday at a nice endurance pace, then riding to the Early Birds (20 miles), mentoring the clinics and the races then doing the P123 race (around 85 miles of crit racing total) then riding home for a total of 125 or so miles and around 7 hours, mostly that looked like this:

...which is me drafting off a huge pack and generally riding at endurance or tempo for most of the day. Not too bad, except you know what you look like after 6 hours of following wheels while wearing sunscreen?

Sexy, that's what:

Yeah, not a pretty sight. I hesitate to think what my lungs look like...

Despite riding quite a bit before this last race - and the one that kicks off the season by actually being scored and counting, I managed 17th with a couple actual pros in the field and had I not completely messed up the last three corners *in a row* I could have done a lot better.

Here's a good example of what a last lap shouldn't look like - check the speed dips in the last two minutes as I blow the positioning heading into the corners, have to brake, and then have to re-accelerate.

Pretty sad, and a mistake I hope not to repeat

That's pretty much it for the pre-season. I've got the endurance training in. The hard work (read: nausea-inducing intervals) is just starting, and it's time for some real racing.

Major goals this season are to stay healthy, have fun, do better in Time Trials, do better climbing, and get some results in crits. We'll see how it goes