Saturday, November 28, 2009

Field Test

I did a threshold power "field test" this afternoon. I've been pretty lax about testing this year. I'll blame dead computer batteries (that I didn't replace all year). The only other one I did was in the Spring, just before I got hurt.

I wasn't too sure what to expect. I know that my fitness has dropped off a bit from the late Summer / early Fall, but I didn't know how much. I also did the test on my 'cross bike, in the garage, with a not-so-true rear wheel, and not on a rest week. It all makes the test variation a bit higher... maybe a lot higher.

Anyway, despite not having tested for a while, I actually put in a nicely-measured effort. I held back a bit the first 10 minutes or so, then the next 10 were getting pretty hard, and then the last 10 minutes were miserable. So, just about right. My only complaint was that I needed a gear in between the two that I was riding in. In one, I was spinning just a little too fast, but the next one down was just a little too hard and was burning up my legs. By the end, I was switching between the two every couple minutes, just trying to hang on.

The good news was that I tied my second best ever threshold power number (set Spring 2008) and I beat my number from this Spring. The bad news, I guess, is that you'd always like to see a higher number!

I've actually only tested one other time at the end of the season (way back in 2006!). It is nice to have that number for the following Spring. Kind of gives you some idea what happened over the Winter.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Blog

I ran across a new (to me) blog the other day. This one is written by Sam Krieg. A couple of good posts here and here.

The more I think about how I felt at Bloomer and during the days leading up to it, the more I'm convinced that I was just too tired. I still don't think that I was training too much, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't resting enough. I felt fatigued to start some of my workouts last week (and the previous week), but I just pushed through it. I think that you can do that for a while, but not too long before it catches up with you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bloomer CX - 2009

“It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.”

- Vince Lombardi

Probably the best thing about this race was that I hung in there and finished...

I woke up to a foggy morning on Sunday. When I looked outside, I was hoping that the fog meant it was a little warm, but it wasn't. It was cold enough that the fog made you even colder. Good 'cross weather I suppose.

My legs felt a little flat during my warmup, but not bad, so I figured I should be OK. The course was pretty fun again; a good mix of fast open corners and some tighter ones. We also went back through the woods for a while.

After questioning my effort just a bit last week, I planned to try for a faster start this week. Apparently, that was everyone else's plan too. So, even though I was going hard at the start, it felt like the whole field swarmed by me. Before the end of the first lap, I was well out of the top 10, and I felt like crap.

I continued to lose ground on the second and third laps, getting passed by people that I felt I "should" beat (didn't they know they were just supposed to follow me around?). After getting taken into the course tape, I was about ready to just stop. There were enough people cheering for me though that I felt like I had to keep going. I started trying to be a little more positive, "Hey, those guys started too fast, hang in there, they'll come back to you." Doing that, I suffered through the rest of the race. Finally, on the last lap, a few people did start coming back to me. I ended up passing maybe 3-4 guys on that last lap.

(Nice head position on this corner! Photo by Hans Nyberg.)

Still, I ended up finishing a disappointing 16th out of 25. For whatever reason, I was just physically way off the pace. Probably my attitude in the middle laps didn't help me either.

So what happened? I think that it was a combination of the following:

  • As I wrote last week, I haven't been sleeping quite enough. Friday night was actually pretty bad. I just woke up at 2am for no particular reason and never really got soundly back to sleep. I watched my daughter all day on Saturday, which was fun, but tiring. Anyway, by the end of the day Saturday, I was pretty wiped out.
  • I also wonder about my training. At this point in the year, the few training rides I'm doing are relatively short and intense. I think this is the right formula, but I wonder if I should have gone a bit harder? I also did some longer (15 minute) intervals on Wednesday night; maybe that left me a little flat?
  • I felt like I was starting to get a little sick this week. Nothing ever came of it, but maybe it did mess me up a little.

I think it helps to have a short memory and be a little bit delusional if you're a bike racer. You have to somehow really believe that next weekend you can line up against the same guys and perform better. So, that's what I'll try to do in two weeks for the last race. I think I've still got a bit of fitness, I just need to let it show.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I'm pretty sure I'd be faster if I could get just a little more sleep. Actually, I've been able to get a pretty decent amount lately, but just another hour or so a night would do wonders I think. Ah well, that's how it goes.

Not much to blog about lately. Our basement has been all torn up for the past month or so from water damage, so I've had to do my riding on the trainer in the garage. It's not been as bad as I thought, but it's still pretty bad (cold and dull). Training rides in the garage just don't provide much blog material...

It's hard to believe that there's just a little over two weeks left in my season. I'm still pretty motivated to race, but I'm also looking forward to being done and doing "normal" things at home for awhile.

I'm racing this Sunday at Bloomer. I've been having trouble remembering what that course is usually like; I went back through my race results and noticed that I've actually only done the CX race there twice! One of those times was back in 2005, my very first cyclocross race!

(Bloomer 2005!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stony Creek CX - 2009

Last Sunday was the Stony Creek cyclocross race. We had beautiful weather on Saturday (sunny and 70F); I was out raking leaves in a T-shirt and jeans. So, I was thinking that we wouldn't have "good" cyclocross weather for Sunday. As it turned out, Sunday was cooler (around 50F) and overcast, there was a cold wind blowing off the lake at the park and it was spitting rain. Good cyclocross weather after all!

I've had a couple good weeks of training and I'm totally over my cold, so, physically, I felt like I should do well. Mentally, for whatever reason, I just wasn't fired up for this race. It wasn't like I didn't want to race, but I just wasn't particularly excited about it.

After pre-riding the course, it looked like the start might be a little dicey. The course quickly funneled down onto a relatively narrow bike path with some curbs on the side at the transition. I wanted to make sure I got a clear shot at it. Otherwise, the course was pretty fun. It was a little more open and flowing than some of the other courses we've raced on this year. We also had the traditional long ride/run across the beach... good for getting the legs burning!

So, I ended up getting a spot on the front row and got off to a good start. I was probably in 6th or so heading on to the bike path, so that was no problem. I didn't try too hard to hang with the front group, since that usually leads to me massively blowing up. My legs felt pretty good for most of the race. It seemed like I could pedal pretty hard up the hills and I was looking for harder gears as soon as I got out of slow sections.

(Photo by Hans Nyberg)

After the first couple laps, things had pretty well thinned out and I found myself around the usual suspects. Fellow Rhino Gary Olson was right with me once again. On the second to last lap, I heard Gary slide out on a corner behind me. I didn't attack, but I didn't slow down either. It turned out to be too much of a gap for Gary to close though.

On the last lap, I saw a couple guys up ahead that were slowing, but I didn't have enough in the tank to catch and pass them. I ended up 11th out of 24. Again, about where I usually finish, although it's been a while since I've beaten Gary.

After the race, I locked my keys in the car. I had put my bike away, but I hadn't gotten dressed yet, so with the cold and wind, that was pretty sweet. Fortunately, Jan let me borrow some extra clothes until Sarah showed up with the extra keys. He definitely saved the day!

(Jan makes the blog for his generosity! Photo by Hans Nyberg.)

It's been a little hard for me to evaluate this race. I felt pretty good physically, but since I wasn't too fired up for the race, I wonder if I could have pushed a little harder. I had expected to get back into the top 10, so I was a little disappointed I didn't quite get there. That said, there were 3 guys that finished less than 20s ahead of me, so I wasn't that far off. My percentage calculation also didn't look so hot, 7.7% off the leader's pace; exactly what I did on Vets Park - Day 2, which was not a good race for me.

On the other hand, my initial reaction after I finished was that I'd had a pretty good race. So I want to make sure that this isn't a case where a less-than-ideal result wrecks an otherwise good race. That's part of the problem with my percentage evaluation scheme; if I improve and the race-winner also improves, it doesn't show up in the percentage.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Sunday Ride

We had some uncharacteristically beautiful weather this weekend. Temps were in the high 50's / low 60's both days and the sky was clear. Pretty crazy for November in Michigan.

I went to the Michigan football game on Saturday, so I was relegated to the trainer when I got home on Saturday night.

On Sunday, I went to the group ride that Mark W organized. The plan was to ride the dirt roads around Clarkston (we used the normal Thursday night route); do a good warmup, get in some intensity, and then cool back down.

I didn't do any of the Thursday rides this year, but last year, I never made it through without getting dropped. So, my plan for Sunday was to ride smart, stay out of the wind, and keep my effort pretty steady (and try to stay with the group!).

Things ended up going pretty well for me, although I'm not sure that we went quite as fast as I've gone before on Thursdays. We stopped to regroup a few times, but the group didn't have to wait for me. I got through my usual breaking point, Horton Rd (about halfway through the ride), with no problem. I felt pretty good on the hills coming back toward Clarkston, which was a first. And when Mark (and someone else) turned the screws a bit on the last stretch of dirt road into town, I put in a good chase. Not enough to catch Mark and companion (until they sat up), but enough to gap the rest of the group.

Anyway, it was a good ride, and a nice change of pace from what I've been doing lately (short intervals on the trainer). I'm feeling like my fitness is pretty reasonable again after those couple weeks I was sick. We'll see on Sunday how much ground I've made up...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Good Training

I've gotten in a pretty good week of training so far. I did some pretty hard intervals on the trainer on Tuesday night. Last night I went out to Waterford Oaks right after work and did a little 'cross ride.

I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to do a ride like last night. I left right after I got home from work, only rode an hour, and still was happy to have my lights as I rode home. I guess that's how it goes...

Anyway, I felt much better on the bike both days than I did over the weekend, so I'm optimistic that I'll be going pretty well by the next race at Stony.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Veterans Park CX - 2009

Wow, quite a weekend of racing!

It had rained pretty much all day on Friday, so Veteran's Park was still pretty wet on Saturday. Temperatures weren't too bad, mid 40's, but we had some serious winds to deal with. Vet's Park is always a hilly course, but usually you can recover a bit on the flatter sections. With the wind and the soft/muddy ground, there was no place to recover.

After two warmup laps, my legs were already hurting, so I wasn't too optimistic about how I'd feel in the race. Because of that and the tough conditions, I started a little more conservatively than I usually do. A lot of people passed me on the first lap, but the course started taking it's toll on some of them, and they came back to me in the later laps.

I felt pretty terrible the whole race, but I ended up riding around the same people I usually do. Most of the day, it seemed like the group ahead of me was just a few seconds ahead, but I just couldn't get up to them. I was noticeably faster than the other guys around me on some of the corners and on the hills, but, on the flat sections, they would take back whatever advantage I had gained.

One thing that I'll credit Gene for was my confidence on some of the faster slippery corners. There was one downhill, muddy, off-camber corner. On one lap, I had the bike leaned over and I was nicely balanced over the bottom bracket. Both tires were sliding, but I just stayed calm in my balanced position and rode it out... no big deal. It was pretty cool. Maybe not fast, but cool.

It's been a long time since I've done a bike race with mud, so I was curious about how my shoes and pedals would work. My Time ATAC pedals worked flawlessly the whole day, even though my shoes were caked in mud. There were a few times I wished that I'd put my toe spikes in though. My Challenge Fango tires also worked reasonably well in the short muddy stretches.

Anyway, I finished just a couple spots back from where I usually do, 13 out of 28. My pace was off though, about 37s per lap slower than the winner (7%).

The weather was much nicer on Sunday. Temperature was about the same, but there was no wind and the sun was out. The course had dried out a bit and I thought the layout was a little easier too.

Photo by Bruce LeBlanc

I was cautiously optimistic that I'd feel a bit better on Sunday. I did feel a little better, but it didn't really translate into an improved performance. Otherwise, the race went about like it did on Saturday. I ended up 14th out of 27 on Sunday, about 36s per lap slower than the winner (8%). Looking at my lap times, you can see that I was totally cooked by the end of the race; my last couple laps were about 30s slower than my first one. Usually I'm much more consistent than that. Although, I noticed that most of the guys that finished around me followed the same pattern.

Photo by Bruce LeBlanc

In general, my fitness just wasn't there this weekend, but, with being sick, that's really no surprise. I've got two weeks to get ready for the next race at Stony Creek; I think that should be enough time to have rebuilt a bit. Hopefully I can at least get back to my baseline 4% at that race.

One more interesting thing: during my "rehearsal" on Friday for the race, I noticed that I pause a little after I jump back on the bike before I start trying to find the pedal with my right foot. There's really no reason to do it, and it costs me a little momentum. So, I made an effort all weekend to eliminate that pause and get my right foot in the pedal as quickly as possible. I thought it seemed to help; I felt like I was able to accelerate out of the barriers a little more quickly. So many little things...