Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I just got back from the Tuesday night club ride at Waterford Hills. Tonight turned out to be a time trial night; I didn't know this, but it wouldn't have really changed anything. It's a pretty laid back deal, you just start when you want and time yourself. Fortunately, I brought a bike that had a computer. The TT is 5 laps around the track, about 7 miles total. I did it today in 18:58... about 22mph average. It was a pretty good effort, but I might have gone out just a little too hard on the first lap.
We also did a little 3 lap race on the track. It was pretty cool, but I basically had no idea what I was doing. The first lap was pretty calm, everyone just cruised. I ended up pulling the field for the second lap, which I'm pretty sure was a bad tactic; I just found myself up there after the first lap. After my pull, I didn't drop all the way back, but tucked in about 6 rows deep. I was in the inside lane and still about 6 rows back when things started getting tense. This left me in the fast lane for the first couple corners near the end of the lap, but with very little room to pull out and move ahead. Finally, with about two corners to go, I pulled out and started moving up. It was definitely too early for me to sprint to the finish, but I could see the front of the field moving away and thought I had to do something. I was stuck in the outside lane on the last corner (a long sweeper), but I had moved up to 6th or so. I tried to hang on to the end, but at least one more guy passed me as I started fading. Anyway, it was pretty fun, and riding in the pack like that wasn't as scary as I thought it might be.
This sort of brings me to my next point. I don't seem to have the same cornering issues on the road as I do on the trail. Part of it is that the conditions are much better: I can see through the corner, the surface is predictable, it's wide, etc. The other part of it is probably that I haven't had a real crash on the road. That being said, I've crashed on my mountain bike a bunch of times, and I know, at least intellectually, that it's usually not that big of a deal. I think it comes down to the fact that I generally trust my tires on the road, but I generally don't trust them on the trail.
One other sort of related story. I just about bit it twice tonight in the gravel parking lot. I was riding down the hill from the bathroom and started to make the turn toward the track. The corner was a little sandy, but I really wasn't going that fast, so I didn't think too much of it. As soon as I hit the sand my tires started sliding. Fortunately, I kept the bike up long enough to clip out and get a foot down. Then, I pedaled not more than 10 feet and just about went down again in a second patch of sand. So, I guess I learned that skinny road slicks and sand are not a good combination.
Hmmm... time for pudding...
Monday, May 28, 2007
I spent a lot of time this week messing with my position on the bike. I was pretty unsatisfied with my "wedging" process, which I discussed last Monday. Essentially, while my knee was tracking better, I felt like I was using so many wedges that I was treating the symptom, not the cause. I also spent a lot of time browsing through the form articles on Cycling News.
What I ultimately determined, I think, was that my saddle was too high. This was causing me to drop my right hip, which was causing my left knee to move outward at the top of the pedal stroke. So, I dropped my saddle and took out most of the wedges I had put on my left shoe (I kept one, since I did measure about a 7 degree varus on my left foot).
One of the recommendations in the Cycling News articles was that your saddle should be low enough that you are "fluent" at the bottom of your pedal stroke. I had thought I was a pretty smooth pedaler, until I dropped my saddle this week. Dropping the saddle made a huge difference in the way my pedal stroke feels. It just feels buttery smooth now, even in hard gears. This is a major change; I used to get very choppy in hard gears with the old position.
As for my knee, lowering the saddle reduced the lateral movement considerably. If I'm not concentrating on good form, I still see a little movement in the harder gears. If I am concentrating on good form, there's no lateral movement that I can see. I am feeling a little muscle fatigue around my knees, but I dropped my saddle enough that I'm not too surprised about this. I expect it to go away within another week or so as I adapt to the new position.
Once my knee feels OK on the bike, I'm going to start a very basic running program. If nothing else, I want to demonstrate to myself that I've solved the problem. I was a little concerned about running too much during the season, but, as Sarah pointed out, the amount of running I'm talking about here won't amount to much more than a warm-up for me (probably just 20-30 minute sessions).
Monday, May 21, 2007
I had some dinner and then decided that I needed to do some more extended testing of the wedges. I popped in an easy Spinervals DVD and got to work. After a few minutes of pedaling, it looked like my right knee had more lateral movement with 1 wedge than it did with none, so I took it out. My left knee still had some lateral movement, so I added a 3rd wedge. It seemed to help a little more, but there was still some lateral movement. At this point, I decided to stop adding wedges; my thought was that I may just need to retrain the pedal stroke of my left leg. So, I ended up with 3 wedges on my left shoe and 0 on the right.
So, my impressions:
- Left knee lateral movement is considerably smaller than with no wedges, but it's still noticeable. Remaining left knee movement may be from bad habits.
- My left leg felt much more "free" than normal at high cadences.
- Pedal pressure on my left foot was more uniform. My left big toe didn't fall asleep as it sometimes does, but that may be because the ride was short and I stopped a few times to adjust things.
- Calf tight spot was still present afterward, but not too bad.
The plan now is to ride like this for a little while and live with the new position. I can feel already that some different muscles in my left leg got used, and I wouldn't be surprised if I end up a little tender from it tomorrow. I suspect that I may end up going back to 2 wedges on my left shoe, but we'll see, 3 just feels like a little too much.
Saturday morning, I went out to volunteer at the first Bump & Run trail race. Sarah ran in it and seemed to do pretty well. She was wiped out for the rest of the day though. I manned a pushup station, and everybody but one guy did the pushups. (You didn't have to do the exercises, but you took a time penalty if you skipped them.) The guy that won was crushing the field when he came by me, and he did some of the best pushups too. I think someone told me he was a cross-country running coach.
When we got back home, it was still kind of cold and rainy, so I decided to do a hard trainer ride instead of going back outside. I'd already done one cold and rainy ride this week, and I really didn't feel like going back for more.
I've been thinking a lot about my knees this week after my Wednesday run. My new theory is that running isn't my problem, it's cycling. A lot of things have come together that make me think that the angle of my foot on the pedal is causing poor alignment of my knee while riding. It's very obvious on the trainer (if you're paying attention) that my left knee does not track straight up and down, it moves inward at the top of the pedal stroke, particularly under heavy load. I think my right knee also moves in, but to a much smaller degree.
I ordered some Power Wedges (formerly, "LeWedges" I think), and I'm hoping that they help. I think, at a minimum, I should be able to correct the lateral knee movement. My expectation is that this will also take care of the tight spots I have in my calves. What I'm not so sure about is if clearing all that up will let me get back to running a little; I hope so.
The weather wasn't much better on Sunday, but I decided to get out anyway. I rode two laps out at Pontiac Lake. I came very close to clearing the hill right after "The Chute", but I didn't quite make it. I need to either carry a little more momentum up the hill or be able to generate just a little more force, and I'd be all set. It's just the first pitch on that hill that's tough; if I could clean that, I could climb the rest.
Otherwise, I did a little better about riding the trail more aggressively: carrying speed through corners and rougher sections. It helped on a few corners to really study the corner and realize that there was no way I could possibly blow the corner (usually because of the banking). I also came to the conclusion that it's generally better to ride over rocks than it is to try to go between them. You don't get knocked off line as much and you can maintain your momentum better. I also think it's best to keep pedaling through rocky sections. I had sort of been unconciously coming to these conclusions, but what I was doing finally sunk in yesterday.
I've been following the Landis arbitration hearing a bit. The stuff that's going on there really makes me sick. This VeloNews article sums it up decently.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Yesterday was a pretty long day for me. I got up at 4:45am to do my strength workout before work. Then, at work, I was going full throttle the whole day. My boss has been in Germany the past three weeks, so I've been helping out on his project a lot.
After work, I drove over to Stony Creek for a road ride. The weather report in the morning said it would be a little cool, but didn't say anything about rain. So, I only packed a short-sleeved jersey and shorts that morning. I always take arm warmers and knee warmers with me, so I figured I'd be fine.
It turned out to be colder than I expected and windy (it's always windy at Stony Creek!), and, only a few minutes into my ride, it started raining. Fortunately, the rain didn't last long. It was actually pretty comfortable when the sun peeked out. I got rained on again on my second lap (in a different spot); I got pretty wet that second time. I stayed dry on my third lap. I rode for about an hour and a half, and I saw exactly two other people out riding. Usually, the roads of Stony are packed with cyclists in the afternoon.
After that, I went straight over to Bloomer Park (home of our velodrome) to meet Sarah and her Boot Camp group. I'm volunteering for a "trail run" they're doing on Saturday. So, I thought they were going to talk about the race and what I needed to do, then let the people doing the race scout out the course. I envisioned that I would be mostly sitting on a park bench eating my sandwich. What happened instead is that we all ran through the course. It's been a long time since I've done any significant running, but I ended up putting in almost 3 miles before I bailed because my knees were bothering me. It actually felt really good to get out and run, it was too bad I couldn't do the whole thing.
I did some super knee treatment protocol last night, which seems to have helped. I used my stick to massage my legs (last night and this morning), took a constrast shower and took a couple of ibuprofens. This morning, my knees are still sore, but it's not too bad. Mostly IT band soreness.
Interesting point about the massage. I tend to find a tight spot on my calf (both legs); it hurts like crazy to roll over it with the stick, but my legs always feel better afterward. Anyway, I'm wondering if this point on my calf and my knee issues are somehow connected, but I don't know.
Monday, May 14, 2007
So, some re-working of the schedule was in order... I pretty much had to keep my "A" race on this side of the trip, because I'm sure my fitness will drop on the trip (which is fine).
What I'm tentatively working toward now is switching my "A" race to the 6-12hrs of Ithaca. I haven't decided if I want to try a solo 6 hour race or team up for 6 or maybe 12 hours. This is probably going to be as good of a time as any for me to try an endurance race. I'll be doing the Stony Marathon race 3 weeks before (about a 3.5 hour race) and a century the weekend before.
This new, longer, break in July/August also means that I'm going to race a little bit longer into the year. I'm going to add another Base phase in after the Alaska trip and try to race through the full cyclocross season, which ends December 2.
So in terms of bike stuff, I'm a little bummed that I will miss the Stony TT, but I'm excited about trying the endurance race. It will be a big-time challenge for me, particularly if I solo it, which is what I'm leaning toward. I'm also really geeked about doing more cyclocross races.
...leave it to me to spend most of a post entitled "Alaska" discussing bike racing...
I did my LT field test on Sunday. I was a little concerned about how it would go since I've never done a hard ride the day before. I felt OK on Sunday morning though, so I figured I'd give it a go.
I held back a bit over my first 10 minutes; I mean, I still went pretty hard, but I left a little in reserve. I kicked it up just a bit for the last 20 minutes; I didn't even switch gears, just upped the cadence a bit. The result was a new personal best!
My average power over the last 20 minutes was 254 Watts. That's a 16W improvement over my last test (which, if you recall, I sort of blew). It was also an 11W improvement over my previous PB, which was at the end of last season. And just in case you think it's because I held back on my first 10 minutes, I also covered more total "distance" on the trainer than I did on my old PB.
If you believe these power numbers and the "power profiling" chart, I'm starting to get into Cat 2 territory with my LT power-to-weight number. Fortunately, I've ridden with enough roadies to know that I have nothing approaching Cat 2 abilities. Still, it's fun to track.
So I'm pretty happy with all of that. Right now, I'm extremely confident with my training plan in terms of continuing to develop my fitness. As I posted before though, my real limiter seems to be confidence in my trail riding skills. So I'm going to try to put a little more effort into that for a while.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
I was really stewing by the time I got home. Sarah offered to ride with me back to the trail and look for my helmet. I thought about it for a while and finally decided not to leave my helmet behind. We also brought a map so we could navigate around the construction on the way home. Once we got to the trailhead, I saw my helmet almost immediately, sitting right where I'd left it, in the grass just on the other side of the curb where I parked. So my helmet is back home on it's shelf, and I'm happy.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Suzie, giving Dad the ol' googly eyes.
Brad, fellow Rhino, and winner of the Sport 30-34 class.
Final results were also posted this morning. I ended up finishing 10th out of the 14 guys in my class that finished. We had 2 DNF's, I'm pretty sure both were from early mechanicals.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Sunday was the race. I was a little concerned about the distance beforehand. This was the first cross-country race I've done in the Sport class, which means there's an extra lap. My other Sport races have been time trials, so just one lap. It didn't help that my plan was to "train through" this race, so my legs were a bit tired before I even started.
I didn't push too hard at the start. I knew I wasn't going to be competitive with the top guys, so I thought it was good form to stay out of their way at the beginning. The fast guys were fast enough that my "strategy" probably didn't matter too much. There was a short open section before we hit the singletrack, and I was probably slightly below mid-pack when we hit it.
The first part of the race was pretty uneventful. I was in a group of about 4 or 5, and we kept swapping spots through the different sections. One thing started to become apparant to me pretty early on, I was able to open (or close) gaps on the flats and climbs, but the guys around me could open gaps on the more technical singletrack. Later in the first lap, our group pared down to three: me, a guy in a SpongeBob jersey and one other in a not-so-distinctive jersey. SpongeBob and the other guy led me for most of that first lap, but I decided that I needed to stay on SpongeBob's wheel, so that's what I did.
We had one incident about 2/3rds of the way through the first lap. Two of the top Sport riders in an older group caught us in a fairly open section. They passed me without incident, but SpongeBob didn't move over. The two guys yelled at him and the second guy smacked him on the shoulder when he went by. Yeah, SpongeBob should have gotten over, but the actions of the other two were really uncalled for. Hopefully SpongeBob got their numbers.
Anyway, at the start of the second lap, my tactic of staying on SpongeBob's wheel paid off. He popped less than a mile into the second lap and so did the other guy. I was still feeling decent and was able to open a gap on them. I didn't see SpongeBob again until after the race, but I'm not sure if the other guy got back by me or not, there were several people from his club/team out there racing. The rest of my second lap was pretty uneventful. I mostly rode by myself, some of the fastest Beginners started coming by on their only lap, but I didn't have any real issues with traffic. I ended up not having much issue with the distance. I was able to really drop the hammer on the last 1.5 miles or so; it was a pretty fast, flat section.
All things considered, I had a good race. My lap times were about 4 minutes faster than my lap time from last year, and I did both laps in nearly the same time.
Given how I felt after the race and the amount of energy I had at the end, I feel like maybe I didn't go hard enough. On the other hand, I did go hard at the places where I could go hard. There were just long stretches of the course where my speed was limited by the terrain (or, my ability to ride the terrain). I know that these sections can be ridden faster, since I saw other guys do it, so I don't know if it's an issue of my ability or not being too familiar with the trail, probably some of both. At least compared to the other guys racing around the back of the Sport field, this technical ability seems to be my big weakness, certainly moreso than any aspect of fitness.
Friday, May 04, 2007
I did a 3 hour road ride on Wednesday night. I was pretty tired by the end, but it basically went OK and it didn't feel as long as I expected. I rode on the roads at Stony Creek, and there were lots of people out, including a couple people flying combat with their R/C airplanes, so that helped to pass the time.
For as tired as I was during the day yesterday, I actually rode pretty well last night. The first 15 minutes or so were a little rough, but I sharpened up after that. I actually cleaned one section that I've never gotten before. It's a downhill into a flat rock garden and then up a short steep hill. In the past, I've always lost too much momentum in the rocks and then couldn't make the hill. Yesterday, I pedaled through the rocks more than I usually do, and then I found the hill wasn't too bad since I started it with a little momentum.
Tonight will be a strength workout, and then I need to mow the lawn. Tomorrow I'm heading back to the West side of the state for the Fort Custer Stampede. I'll pre-ride the course tomorrow and then race on Sunday. Fortunately, this should also be the last race for awhile that I'll "train through". It's tough starting a race when your legs are already smoked.