Monday, October 27, 2008
I fried my legs pretty thoroughly yesterday. After it stopped raining in the morning, I did a short sprint power workout. It always surprises me that this drains the legs as much as it does. The work interval is just so short and the rest interval is so long, but, if you do them at the right intensity, your legs are tired by the end.
My legs were pretty fried for hockey last night too. I actually played reasonably well again, but I had a bunch of good chances that I didn't finish. It would be better if I'd play more than once every other week. We got 5 extra minutes from the Zamboni guy 3 times at the end, so everybody was pretty wiped out by the end.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
The idea today was to thoroughly warm up (since I'd been off the bike for almost a week) and then do some "cruise" intervals. I rode over to Indian Springs (about 40 minutes away, using a winding route), and then got going on the intervals. With the wind, the intervals were pretty brutal. I really started coming unglued at the end of the second one; the third one was OK since I was in a more sheltered area.
I know it may not be physically ideal to do intervals on the road (or trail), but I think there are other benefits. You need to get used to pushing hard into the wind, up a hill, around a corner, whatever the road or trail throws at you. The conditions of my ride today felt very Munson-like. My theory is that you train in adverse conditions, then they're not such a shock when you encounter them in a race.
Friday, October 24, 2008
I did find some time to get some exercise in though. Tuesday and Wednesday I got up early and ran. The weather down there was still quite a bit warmer than Michigan. I actually felt really good on my runs; it was a little surprising, since I'd run a bit a few days ago and my knee started bothering me.
Most days, I also swam in the evening. Swimming is a great workout for me. Since I hardly ever swim, I have absolutely no efficiency in the water. I can make it slowly down and back (remember, in a hotel-sized pool) and then I have to stop and suck wind for a while.
I didn't ride last night. I ended up working late last night and I wanted to spend some time with the family. I should be able to get in some good rides tonight and this weekend though.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
The course starts with a long, open stretch of paved road. I didn't get a great start position, but I wasn't too concerned given the long stretch of road. What I didn't expect was totally blowing the start. I usually start with my left foot clipped in. I did today also, but when I made my first downstroke, I started tipping left, and I didn't get my right foot in. Fortunately, one of my competitors stuck his arm out and probably stopped me from crashing. After that bit of artistry, I was off the back before I got started. Still, it was a long stretch of road, and I didn't panic. I worked my way by quite a few people before we hit the grass.
(Sarah actually captured this moment on the camera. Upon closer inspection of the picture, I saw that my left foot wasn't clipped in either. So, I don't know if I didn't actually have my foot clipped in when I though, or if I clipped out to avoid falling.)
So, back to the action... as soon as I hit the grass, I saw riders splitting around something. Someone had gone down and his bike was covering most of the course. I lost a few spots getting around the crash. Again, I just kept reminding myself to use my energy wisely. I passed people when I could but didn't force it. A minute later, I crashed on an off-camber corner. I'd been nailing it on my warmup laps, but I think I was going faster and probably just leaned too much. I managed to finish the lap without crashing.
Once again, I was noticeably quicker than the guys around me through the technical sections. I still really don't understand this, as it is not a strength of mine in mountain bike races.
I'd been gradually working by people in the early laps. I finally felt like my fitness was starting to get good today. I was able to keep my pace up the whole race and push hard a few times. More setbacks on the third lap, I tripped over one of the barriers, but I didn't fall. Immediately after I got back on the bike though, I overcooked the next corner and got tangled up in the tape. Three of the guys I'd just passed went by me.
At some point during the race, I managed to rip a big hole in my shorts. Nice...
So, over the last couple laps, I worked my way back by those same guys. At the start of my last lap, my bike started having trouble staying in gear. I thought maybe there was a stick in there or something and I thought I could ride through it. The guy chasing me commented that I was having terrible luck today. After I set my bike down after the sandpit, I got a big gear skip and heard the brakes rubbing. I had to stop to fix it then. It turned out that the quick release had loosened so my rear wheel was moving around. Amazingly, just the one guy that was right behind me passed me while I was fixing my bike. It did bring two more guys right up to me though.
On the rest of the last lap, I was just trying to make sure I beat the two guys behinds me. The riders in front of me were out of contact at that point. I tried to put in an attack on the runup and on the hills afterward, but I could still see a shadow behind me. I attempted to covertly shift to the big ring a few corners before the finish. I didn't hear any chainrings shifting behind me. I punched it on the last corner before the finish and kept it burried to the finish. Sarah said the guys behind me weren't too close to coming around.
So, I ended up finishing 13th out of about 25 today. Despite all of my mistakes and mishaps today, I felt really good about this race, mainly because my fitness seemed so much better. So, next up, in two weeks, the Veteran's Park doubleheader in Ann Arbor. In the meantime, I think I'll work on my starts...
(My daugter made the trip today too...)
Friday, October 17, 2008
I went to 'cross practice Tuesday night. A lot of the usual group raced at the BioWheels 'cross race in Ohio the weekend before, so they were just taking it easy on the track. I didn't race, so I felt like I needed to go hard. The result was that I was about the only one going hard (there were a few other people riding easy on the 'cross course). After one of my hard efforts, I stopped to talk to Jeff for a minute. He commented that I was "finally starting to look like a bike racer". From Jeff, that's a pretty big compliment; he usually spends most of his time complaining about how people ride. Anyway, it was kind of cool.
I've sort of been wondering when I'd finally feel like I was getting into racing shape. I think it may be starting to happen. I felt pretty decent on Tuesday night, but since I was the only one riding hard, I couldn't compare. Tonight, I did a hard trainer workout and I felt better than I expected. So, maybe I'm starting to come around. We'll see. I still expect to struggle a bit at the race this weekend, but maybe I'll be OK after that.
Having said that, I'm really not so sure my 'cross season will ever come together this year. I decided that I needed to go to Oklahoma for work next week. I would have really preferred not to go (since it screws up my training and my family "balance"), but I think I need to. Then, as I mentioned before, I'll be going to Korea and China for a week or so in early November. (Also, a quick trip to Nebraska in late November!) That's how it goes I guess. I'll just try to prepare the best I can for my races and not get stressed that I can't train how I'd like.
Monday, October 13, 2008
So, one of the pieces of this puzzle was an article that Ashwin had linked to. I think this article is, by the way, nearly impossible to understand without some significant understanding of cycling training principles.
Another piece of the puzzle was my frustration, or lack of understanding, about why long rides are necessary for mountain bike and cyclocross. In lots of books you read (and in my club), people are suggesting you do these 4-6 hour rides. For road racing, I can understand this, as the race distances are approaching this range. But, to ride 4-6 hours for a 2 hour mountain bike race, or a 1 hour cross race? I don't get it, it's always seemed like overkill to me.
The last piece is my reading of several different books and websites about higher intensity training.
One of the key ideas from the Willet article was to match your "fill rides" (long rides) with the expected energy expended during the race (energy = power x time). Doing more than this is not really useful; it increases your fatigue level with little benefit. I made a little chart of energy burned as a function of intensity (% CP30) and time (hrs). Here's the key thing to notice: increasing time increases energy expended much faster than increasing intensity. (Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to make the image bigger in Blogger.)
You could do the same exercise for a mountain bike race. What it looks like to me though is that, as long as you're not racing for long periods of time (like in road races or marathon MTB races), you don't need to ride much longer than 2.5-3 hours. 4-6 hours puts you way over your energy expended in a MTB or 'cross race.
Of course, matching energy is only half the story. Training just to match energy will still get you smoked in a bike race. I don't want to delve into the other half of the story in this post, but I will say that I think I'm spending way too much time working on "fill rides" and not enough on the latter.
I actually had some pretty fun rides this week, even though the legs didn't feel great. I did a hill sprint workout at Waterford Oaks Thursday night. Since there was a lot of recovery time in that workout, I played around with some different 'cross handling things on the trails. I did a road ride on Saturday, it was pretty windy... maybe that wasn't so fun. Sunday morning I rode my singlespeed at PLRA again. I didn't push very hard, and I had a good time. I definitely need to make some changes to that bike if I want to keep riding it so much. That (relatively) narrow front tire is killing me!
I had a much better hockey game last night. No goals, but I actually handled the puck reasonably well. So it was a big improvement over my last skate.
It looks like my rough cyclocross season will be getting rougher. It's not official yet, but I'm probably heading off to Korea and China early next month for work. It won't be a long trip, but the timing is pretty bad. A week of messed up sleep, food and exercise is not a recipe for good form for the last month or so of the season.
This is another reason that some of the higher intensity programs have some appeal to me. Yeah, maybe my peak won't be as good as it could be with a more progressive build, but I think I stand a better chance of being in better shape for more races.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I took Tuesday night off (so no 'cross workout). Then, on Wednesday, because it looked like I had to ride the trainer anyway, I decided to do a LT field test. I've really been feeling lost lately about where my fitness is, and I figured that the test was a good substitute for the Muscular Endurance workout I was planning to do.
The test didn't go great, which maybe isn't a big surprise, since I did it at about 8pm after a full day of work. Usually, I do these on Saturday mornings. That being said, my heart rate was right where it should be for a good test, so I know my effort was good. I also improved my average power by 12 Watts over my previous test (done back in March, end of Base 2).
So, I feel like I got some mixed results. On the one hand, I'm a little disappointed that I didn't improve more between March and now. On the other hand, I'm sure I could have eeked out a few more Watts if I'd have done the test under more ideal conditions. Also, I know that I've been improving on this test at a pretty good clip, and, at some point, the improvement will start slowing down. Maybe that's starting to happen?
For reference, and because it makes me feel good, here's my improvement. From the time I started seriously training and doing these tests, back in January of 2006, my average power has improved by 62W, or 30%. That's pretty dramatic! To put it in terms of speed (which is maybe more understandable), my average speed on the test has improved by 2.3mph.
(I've been playing around with some power and energy numbers lately... more on that later... but I read that in an international professional MTB race, the riders average about 88% of their threshold. With some other data, I worked out that their threshold power is about 400W! This is about 130W higher than me! Cripe! I can only hold 400W for a few minutes!)
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Anyway, my plan for the race was to try to hang with English Mark and Irish Pete for as long as I could. I knew it would be a stretch, but I also knew it would force me to keep the pace up.
I got myself a fired up a bit on the starting line, and when the whistle blew, I went out hard. The guy in front of me didn't start quite as hard, so I lost a little momentum getting around him. At that point, English Mark went by me, so I latched on to his wheel and off we went. I think I was easily in the top 10 when we got off the pavement.
The first unpaved corner was fine, but I ran into trouble on the second. It was a hairpin left, with the course doubling back on itself. I was in a short line on the inside, and there was a long line on the outside. The outside line guys, of course, had the fast line through the corner, while us inside line guys had to crawl around. I probably lost 7 or 8 spots just getting around that corner, but at least I didn't fall.
I was still trying to push hard, which probably contributed to my next mistake. The next section was a log runup, some people were riding it, some were running. I elected to run, but I didn't shift down beforehand, so I was in too hard of a gear when I got back on. Another small group passed me.
The next section was a long section of relatively tight corners in the grass. I was actually pretty quick through here, but I continued to make bad decisions. I was still scrambling to move up, but I was forcing things too much and I was using up a lot of energy for very little return.
The signature feature of the Stony 'cross race is the beach section, and they made it as long as possible this year. It was a little trickier this year than it normally is, because there were sections down by the water that were firm and easily rideable, but there were also deeper sections in between that were much harder to ride. What seemed to work (later in the race) was to ride the first hard section, then ride the short deep section, ride the second firm section, and then run the last deep section. That's not what I did on the first lap though. On the first lap, I started running in the first deep section, and I think this cost me quite a bit of time.
Once I got off the beach on that first lap, I assessed my position a bit and realized I wasn't going to be able to catch Mark and Pete at that point. So, I backed off a touch and started in on my steady pace. For most of the rest of the race, I rode in a group of 3-4 guys. I crashed on the beach on my third lap when my handlebar hooked a sign right on the edge of the course. It was dramatic, but it didn't cost me a tremendous amount of time.
On the last lap, I made my move to break away from the group I was riding with. I thought I was faster through the "tape maze" section, and so, when there was a little lull in the pace in that section, I pushed hard for a little while and broke away. It's a good thing I got my gap at that point, because I was spent, and I couldn't have put in another hard effort.
Friday, October 03, 2008
I did a couple interesting things last week. One was a night ride on the road. I broke out my lights and actually ended up exploring some new roads (before it got dark). I found a hillier stretch of road by my house that I can incorporate into my typical rides out toward Pontiac Lake. I just need to remember to pop the clear lenses into my glasses if I'm going to be riding after dark. I ended up taking my glasses off and getting a little bug stuck in my eye!
I've been riding my singlespeed mountain bike a lot lately. Partly because I wanted to ride it, and partly because my geared mountain bike is still half-broken. It's been fun, but I learned an important lesson. It's critical to make sure the rear wheel is really locked down. I was climbing a steep hill at Bald Mountain last week, and I heard a loud pop from the rear wheel. Turns out that I didn't have the wheel tightened enough, and it slipped forward in the dropout. This made the wheel rub on the brakes and I lost my chain tension. Of course, I didn't have a tool to fix it with me. So I had to ride slowly out, with my chain falling off every minute or so. For the next ride, at Pontiac Lake, I really cranked the axle nuts down, and I didn't have any trouble (I also brought a wrench, just in case).
Hockey was a bit of a disaster on Sunday night. I actually skated pretty well, but I could do anything with the puck. I got lots of good opportunities, but I only made a few decent plays. Hopefully this weekend will be better.