Friday, July 30, 2010

Post ESG fallout and time trial

This season has been an interesting one. No interval training. No "hard" rides.

Of course there are a few exceptions. Most notably would be that I have recently started implementing some 1.5 to 2' hill attack intervals into the occasional ride. This is in direct answer to the fact that most of my races have exposed a weakness in this aspect of my form.

So I use races for my "training", and the total now stands at 51 (including weeknighters as well as "real" races, and of course the legs don't know the difference) for the season.

This is a trick I have learned from pro riders and long-time Masters with whom I am in contact (mostly via the internet). The majority of my time in the saddle (other than racing) is spent at L2 (Coggan level 2, endurance pace). Basically, it's the classic "all-day" pace.

So how is it going? That depends on your perspective. I have a multi-year perspective and have to keep reminding myself that (very much the way I train young musicians) in building a really good foundation of ability, it's not the hours that count so much as the years. Hence I have made this change to my training. The whole point of it is to keep the body at a level of endurance which can withstand the amount of racing that I wish to do. And to recover from it.

So far it has been working remarkably well. I have had exactly zero injuries, zero overuse pains, zero symptoms of overtraining syndrome. No elevated resting heart rate, no prolonged periods of sleep problems. No massive fatigue lasting for days.

The cost? Improvements come very slowly and are quite subtle. Here's a "for instance"...

Last night was the first real long individual time trial I have done this season. (We had a few on the schedule but I was either unavailable or tapering for a weekend event at the time) A 20 mile TT with a substantial amount of climbing in it. I came in with no expectations, since it fell on day two of a block of active days, directly following a 4.5 hour day. I rode to the event, getting a good 35 minutes of warm-up in, and really not feeling all that strong. Once I started the TT, I slotted in to my FTP and kept reminding myself to keep the power down. Save it for later!

I started to come alive on the hill, making a pretty good go of it and eventually passed everyone on the road. This was mainly due to my start time being a bit too early in the field, not so much because I was fast. Unfortunately, it also removed any "carrots" for me to chase after from that point on and I was simply left to ride by myself. Not usually a problem, I focused on denying anyone the chance to catch me. (Todd did go by me near the end but nobody else did)

On the back leg (downhill plus tailwind) I had to coast a bit due to spinning out the 54x11 and feeling like I would be better served with a few little "breathers". Once back on the flatter sections I pushed a fairly big gear and kept the pressure on. Sometimes power would fade a bit, but I was able to ramp it back up to a decent level.

On finishing, I expected the average power to be a bit higher than it was, and was a bit disappointed (but of course this was just day two of a training block). I did set a PR on the course though, finally beating the 50 minute mark for 49:51 and getting 4th place (meh)

The point of this whole thing is this:

Even without tapering or rest or even planning to make this into anything more than a simple training day, I was able to:

-make a PR on a long TT

-arrive at the finish within a few watts of FTP average

-feel strong at the tough sections, even late in the race

-ride there and back, no issues

and today, I feel pretty much fine. Yes, it's a rest day, but if I had to I could race again. This is a good sign and bodes well for future stage race events.

I wonder how it would go if I planned a peak for one of these weeknight events. So far, I have only done one TT on day one of a peak event (ESG TT) and it resulted in a new power record for 20' (albeit just by a few watts)

So the long slow multi-year plan seems to work. The downside is that any improvements gained seem to be very small, but most likely will be as close to "permanent" as I can get.

Monday, July 26, 2010

ESG stage four - Team time trial

This is an unusual event. I have been in plenty of four-man groups chasing (or, on occasion, off the front) so I am pretty used to dosing my efforts and rotating smoothly, but doing it on aerobars is a bit different.

I started the day with a bit of a warmup and really had terrible legs. They just felt like rocks. I let the coach know this and he gave me some chewable vitamin and sugar tablets that seemed to help a bit.

I was on the B squad. We were probably not going to be the faster squad, since only two of us were experienced TT guys (although the other two guys were some of the strongest on our team in terms of power/weight)

It really does come down to TT experience though and doing a TT is not always about power but about managing your effort level. I thought we did an excellent job considering the different characteristics of our four riders. We sort of had a sine-wave going in terms of speed, and it would vary a bit. I found myself having to slowly ramp things up in order to get back to the "slightly above threshold" necessary to make good TTT speed, yet still keep things smooth to protect the legs of the guys behind me.

Sometimes things would surge harder and I'd have to hit it pretty hard once I dropped back and grabbed the last wheel. I felt like I left it all on the course though and gave everything.

We finished 9 out of 11, not the best TTT, but, in our defense, many of the times were relatively close together and we did manage something like 26.4mph average over the 37 miles.

Our A squad lost Dan, who crashed out early and had to finish with only three, but they still did great, coming in with over 27mph average. I think the winners were 28.5 or so.

I would also note that most of the teams had five guys. We were short on men so had to fend with fewer. This is tough in TTTs.

Dan is fine, lost some skin and scraped his face up a bit, but he is ok now.

After the race, even though we didn't do so well and lost our overall bronze (mainly due to our squad getting beat by Long Island in the TTT) I wasn't feeling bad. This was mainly due to being on a big team of great folks who all supported eachother and hung out after the race. We left with happy hearts and thoughts of coming back next year.

It made me wish that my Masters races would be that way. Generally it is just me and Pete. It would be great if we could get more guys involved on the weekends.

Our women's team again were carrying Central. They scored a silver in the event and silver overall! Way to go!

As I have mentioned, I never had the intention of being on the Open team. When I promoted and ran the qualifier, we didn't have enough people to fill the men's team, so I chose to put my name in there as a favor to Central. I knew I was in over my head and would likely be one of the weaker riders. This turned out to be true (although I did put in a valuable TT that indicated I was one of the stronger individual time trialists) and I was not upset to have it happen.

However, I am confident that with one more year of development I should reach a strength level that will make me much more competitive at this event next season. I will try out for the team in earnest next year.

I've been saying it for a while now. One of these days..... I am going to be fast. It's just a matter of time.

When that happens, better watch out.

Just sayin'

ESG stage three - Crit

Crits don't tend to be my best event. They tend to be my worst, since they highlight the biggest flaw in my form, anaerobic power and top-end.

I am getting better though, and I do try to do as many crits as I can. It's not easy, since I tend to have to go pretty far out of town to find them. Work on those flaws!

The ESG crit is tough. It's basically a 123 crit with some weaker riders thrown in and some squirrels as well. I am not one of the strong riders, but I am a pretty decent bike handler and can corner extremely fast (from sport-bike motorcycle riding)

We started out fast and stayed that way. 35 laps for 28 miles coming. I was near the back, as usual. Ordinarily I tend to hurt like crazy for the first ten or so laps and then get comfortable and start moving up. Everything was going according to plan and I pushed my way up to about the top third of the pack by the middle of the race. At this point I tend to just try to stay in there and see if I can find a teammate to help. It's so much easier in this position since I rarely have to brake before corners or even stand after them.


there was a crash, and an ambulance parked itself right at the S/F line. I was behind the wrong wheel and the guys braked. The rest of the pack on the left side punched it and I got stuck behind a bad split. We managed to bridge it, but this left me in the back again and vulnerable. I kept getting stuck behind some junior who had strong legs but was afraid of the corners and I'm starting to get tired. Brake, corner, sprint, brake, corner, sprint. Ugh.

Need need need need to get by him but I've had way too many efforts!

Yeah way too many. I got popped with around 11 to go. I let out a howl in frustration. I think they heard me a mile away.

At this point come the thoughts of "I should just quit right now..."

So I put my head down and tried to keep turning the pedals, doing something like 18mph on the ups, 25 on the downs (we were taking turn four at 32 mph when I was in the pack) they are going to lap me in four.

I kept asking the officials about the points and DNF and getting lapped when I came around...

"can I start tomorrow if I get lapped?"

-no answer-

(I come around again)

"do I get penalized more points for getting lapped or for a DNF?"

(again I didn't hear an answer) dang..

(why won't they answer me?)

so I made a decision to just get lapped and finish.

Housler went by me off the front, crushing the field. I am thinking he won at least two sprint laps since he was out there for quite a few and certainly the last lap. I held on to the pack once they caught me for a bit, but fell off again with 3 to go and grabbed onto three guys out there. Not sure what my finish was, but it must have been close to DFL.

I was pretty bummed, but once I glanced at my meter I realized that the race had only lasted an hour.

That's a 28mph average. Holy crap. I felt better about hanging tough for two thirds of the race.

Friday, July 23, 2010

ESG - Stage 2, Road Race

There is something that I say too often this season.

"That was the hardest thing I have ever done on a bike"

(sometimes, in retrospect, I realize that it wasn't true)

In this case, true.

I am totally wrecked. I think the official stats are something like 800' of climbing per 10 mile lap. I suspect it was over 1000' however since it felt as hard as our ESG course. When we do ours, two laps is enough. This was six laps (plus one additional ascent of the major hill).

Well, for me, it was 5+1, but for the rest of the team it was 6+1. The reason being that they pulled riders who were so far OTB that they were going to extend the race end by another half hour and they don't want to keep paying the cops, etc.

Not that I totally failed. I knew going into this race that I had zero chance of winning it (I know some of the favorites and know what they are capable of). Therefore, the logical step is to do what I can for our team, which I did. Early in the race, if someone needs to do the chase, it's me, or if someone needs to jump on a possible move, me again. I try to do what I can to protect our guys and help them if they are in trouble.

The first time up the hill I had to basically just focus on the wheel in front of me. It's a ten-minute all-out grinder (like Penn Ave) and I made sure to avoid looking at the power meter, thinking that if I did I would have thought "Oh" "My" "God"

I cheated and peeked once, 370w. That is over 6w/kg. I'm not saying we averaged that, but I will find out what the average was once I get back to Bingo. (Penn Ave record so far is around 4.9)

I hung in there, and even covered a few attacks and stuff like that after ascent #1. The second hill was different, it starts with a 17% nut-kicker and then "levels off" to an "easy" 7-8% or something for a while. This one started to gap the field a bit and I found myself chasing a bit once it got flat at the top. Grygus came around and surfed me back to the pack. Thanks Mike!

Second ascent of the major hill and I am realizing that this course has no rest periods. We are either climbing, doing fast descents, or fighting the 20mph headwinds. I knew it was just a matter of time before things broke up totally. Power was much much lower on the second ascent, something like 270 when I glanced down and I held it fairly well, but a split opened up near the top and I was on the back part. Andy Ross was up in the front driving the chase to catch back on the main field and I knew it was time to go to work.

I shot to the front and did a massive pull, We traded for a bit and came to the one hard corner. We are both excellent descenders and cornerers and basically gapped everyone and got a heck of a lot closer after the 32mph corner (no brakes)

Unfortunately, the field in front surged and went single file. I hit 800w chasing them at this point and we kept fighting for a meter here, a little bit there. This went on for half a lap until I took a massive pull to finally make contact just around the next corner and suddenly...


remember that 17% wall? well, I forgot about it and we hit it just when I had finished taking this beast of a pull. Our group was back in the main field and I went right OTB. My work done, my "race" no longer a race.

however, I still had 4 laps to go and this was going to be tough, what with the wind and all.

I spent a lot of time alone at first, then had a few guys catch me and we would work together, but usually end up busted-up after the major climb or the wall. By the time it said 2-to-go, I was starting to think they might pull me but the guy said "yes, you have two to go". I glared at him and steeled myself for more of this.

The next time up the hill I was having serious doubts about making another lap. Really.

I slotted in front and pulled my companions up the better part of the climb when suddenly they all came around me and sprinted for the line. I knew what was going on. They were banking on it being the last lap and they guessed right. Of course I had no answer for this and drifted across the line for a stunning amazing second-to-last place. I think.

But I did manage to help the team a bit. There was even one point where Jake (our best guy) flatted and I saw him there, stopped, helped him get his chain back on and surfed him back in to whatever group we could find. He wasn't able to get back to the main field though.

So it wasn't really a bad race I guess, although it was physically tougher than Fitchburg or even Killington. This Buffalo RR is a total beast. Take note.

Eli was the best of our men's team with a sixth place or thereabouts.

Marjo made second in the women's field. Our women are really strong this year and I think that's awesome!

So I just finished a gigantic meal and have eyes to, well, sleep for ten hours straight. Crit tomorrow.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ESG - Stage One

The setting...

Pan flat...totally awesome. Kind of like the 38 time trial course... out and back, with a hot-dog turn-around at the 5 mile mark....except...




Grand Island, NY is a small island literally between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Canada is just a spin-cast across the river, so is the westerly wind.

I warmed up on the course and the wind wasn't really bad at all so I figured I could go somewhat harder on the way out, hoping for an even split or a slight negative split. This turned out to be a mistake however, since the gods decided to hold the wind order until the exact moment when the TT started.

I felt awesome in the first two miles, looking at the meter often and making sure I kept it within reason. Speed looked great too. I felt a PR coming on!

until the turn-around


I guess it was a tailwind after all!

so the headwind whacks me in the face like a wooden bat and I think to myself "not sure if I can keep this up into this kind of headwind"...

I try.

Actually I was able to keep the pace going with only one or two little moments where I faded, but the final mile went well and I pushed it hard to the line for a 23:40 28th place in a field of 51. That's not bad for me, and the average power was right in line with my better 10 milers. Schweet.

I rode around for quite a while after that, finding myself almost back near the turn-around again so I put the bike down and took up a standing post and gave some encouragement to the Central women's team. I hollered and ran and clapped, trying to give them the best boost I could

(lord knows I could have used it while out there!)

maybe, just maybe, it had an effect because...wait for it...

we got the GOLD in the women's field! Woohoo! Vanessa put in a heck of a TT.

Actually a lot of folks put in great rides today. Chuck Rhoades nailed it for silver in the 45+. Ed Burns got gold in the 65+. Todd Sherwood made gold in the 35+. Wow.

Our men's open team did reasonably well, with Dan Fitch getting into the top ten (I think). I was 4th best Central, and may hence end up on the a-squad for the team TT on Sunday.

Best time of the day: something around 21:30 by guess who? Jay Joslyn. I figure the wind was good enough to add a minute to his time, since I would have expected a 20something time.

Team Western went 123.

Road Race tomorrow. Hills. Lots.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

ESG - pre race

The Empire State Games are an Olympic-style event where they divide the state of New York into geographic sections and pit the best athletes in many different sports against eachother. By "best" I mean the best of those who try out for the games.

I was the race director for our qualifying race (Central Region) and we had pretty poor turnout. Hence, I decided it was time to step up to the plate and try out for it myself. And, after a most difficult process of getting my ass handed to me (on a fourth consecutive day of racing) I made the team

by default

NASA Guy: [Barney runs off drunk and wastes his chance at being an astronaut] Well, Homer, I guess that makes you the winner by default...
Homer: Default? The two sweetest words in the English language! De-FAULT! De-FAULT! De-FAULT!
NASA Assistant: [clubs Homer with a police sap]
NASA Guy: Where'd you get that thing?
NASA Assistant: Sent away.

tomorrow is stage one...10 mile time trial on Grand Island. Not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.

Jay Joslyn will be there, Mr. 52 minute 40k. He LIVES on Grand Island. Home court advantage anyone?


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fitchburg Stage four - Crit

Dropped, Lapped, Dropped, Pulled, Failed

The End.

Please don't ask me to speak of it again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fitchburg Stage three

Back on track, sorta.

Stage three is a time trial. That means aero bikes, funny hats and making an attempt to cram a whole day’s worth of energy into twenty minutes of hyperactivity.

I have been sitting one place off of the Lanterne Rouge in this race and have needed to climb my way back up, so I came in determined to do exactly this. Pain? Forget it. Legs not responding? Screw ‘em. Just “think” fast and ignore the numerous loud sirens blaring in your brain telling you to FRIGGIN STOP!

That was the plan, anyway.

After two hard days I figured I shouldn’t expect much from the tired legs, but all the rest of the hammerheads in this stacked M40 field should be under the same conditions, so they will be slower too, right?


Um.. right?

Yeah. Jonny Bold was slower than last season. Ten seconds slower. “Only” 28.7 mph @ 18:39. Oh, I can do that in my sleep. Seriously. I can do that while dreaming.

In reality I can do just around 26mph on the best of days in a TT. This was not the best of days. 250 feet of climbing over 8.9 miles and a killer headwind. I managed right around 24 mph even for 31st place out of 42 remaining riders. 22:10

That should be enough to move me up a few spots on GC!

Well, no. I remain in 41st place on time. But my power was pretty fair for the third day of racing, only down maybe 6 watts from target. I am somewhat gratified with that.

Pete crushed it. 20:32 for 13th place. Only his third time ever riding his new TT bike. Go!

One day left.

Fitchburg Stage 2

Eff this effin’ hill.

I am a pretty good climber. Really. Put me on a long mountain pass and I do just fine, thank you.

But stick me on some short nut-kicker of 15% where everybody stands and mashes and I have to push 500w or something and it’s a great way to really hurt me. Like a 2x4 in the side of the head hurt.

Now make me do it twelve times as part of a 500’ ascent. Really good way to hurt me.

Lap one seemed perfect, nice grades for about a mile and a half. I am putting myself in ideal position as we climb and then BANG. We go around a slight bend and I see the wall. Frak. I stand up and mash it, cresting the thing at around fourth wheel. Good.

Not good. The finish line is after the crest where you come around this right-hand bend and right afterward is yet another 15% nutkicker. I shot my wad keeping up with these animals on the first one. This is not a good sign for the next five laps. Especially because every lap is a bell lap.

I hang on. At the summit I am mid-pack and settle back in.

Most of lap two is uneventful, save the Keystone Kops highjinks when we get passed by the juniors. They neutralize us. We wait for the busted-up junior field to pass. We start racing again. We pass most of the stragglers again. Then we slow down because nobody’s attacking and the juniors pass us again. We then shoot by them on hills. You get the idea.

Second time up the wall and I get gapped a bit. I end up behind the caravan and take a few deep breaths and push hard to get a bit of a draft from the SRAM car. Finally I catch him and relax a bit. I come around him and surf the cars until I can sprint back to the riders ahead. Better.

At this point there is a fast descent. It occurs after the final climb which is about a mile after the summit of the main climb. Once you crest that hill, it’s all downhill until you get to a short run-in to the first corner. I always use this spot to make up time, since I have the crazy descender gene and have no problem at all with riding a bicycle at motorcycle speeds. It is astounding how many big heavy guys I go past and end up pretty close to the front for the corner. The rest of lap two is pretty uneventful.

Third time up the wall was the last time, at least for me. This time I was so far back that the caravan was out of reach. I found a few other peloton rejects and we formed a small “survival group”. I wouldn’t call it racing, or even a “chase group”. It was a “let’s just try to get to the end of this race without falling down” group. We figured it would be impossible to miss the time cut since we stayed in contact for half the race.

Each successive ascent of the wall was done in a progressively smaller gear until I was in my total bailout gear that I almost never use in a race. I look at the powermeter and realize…..

“dang, this IS a steep wall”

you know what?

EFF this Effin’ hill.

I remain in the basement on GC.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fitchburg 2010 Stage 1

So close. So far.

Fitchburg Stage 1.

This thing is a 3.2 mile circuit race with a “moderate” climb section on each lap. “Moderate” in this case means something other than what you might expect (and what I expected and what Pete expected as well)

Think about the steepest stupid bunch of stair-steps all lined up in a row, one after another. When we walked the course in the morning the only thing we could say was “geez, this IS a steep hill”. Steep mashers like that tend to be my nemesis, although Pete does well with them.

We all line up and start the race at a surprisingly civil pace. I know this because, as usual, it takes me forever to clip in and I end up in the back again. However, this is thankfully no big deal, since I am able to freely move around in the pack. By the lead-in to the wall on lap one I am in a comfortable mid-pack position.

The Wall. We stand up and mash this damn thing as hard as humanly possible. I filter to the back of the pack, wondering how the heck some of these guys get their strength… EPO? Wheaties? Live baby flesh? Shark brains?

It’s going to be a long day.

When we reach the top (I’m still on board the train but pretty much in the caboose at this point) I notice Pete is standing on the curb holding his bike up. Could he have flatted? No. No way. He would have ridden the flat into the pit and got a spare. Crashed? No. He would have still been on the floor since we were all in the same field at that point. I roll by. Not liking this.

This race is made even more difficult by a long section immediately following the wall which is a very slight upward grade into the wind. As long as you hold the wheel in front of you, you should be just fine. I do this for the next three laps, but lap five was my undoing.

I held on for the climb and slotted back in to the back of the pack as I had been doing, but this time the guys in the front must have put the hammers to it since the pack was strung out going into the wind. Big gusts, stronger wind, and I am stuck behind a little split. Two other riders get popped off the back with me. The moto comes around. I shout at him “No!” He doesn’t listen. The car comes around. I don’t shout but try my damndest to get a draft from him. No dice. He speeds up and nearly puts his car right into the back of the peloton, clearly seeing what I am doing and denying me the chance to get any help. This goes on for most of the lap until I am literally gasping for air and have to give up the chase. I let them go.

Soul = crushed.

I mentally beat on myself for half a lap while thinking about all the things I would rather be doing than suffering here in Offthebackistan. This is pretty typical and usually happens for a few minutes until I settle in to TT mode. I try to remind myself that I don’t have to go super hard, since it’s a virtual guarantee that I will make the time cut, with only three laps to go.

Then a rider “joins” me. He came up on me fast and went right by at such a tempo that I figured he must have had a flat or something. There’s no way this guy would get dropped, unless he can’t climb to save his life. I jump on his wheel. He doesn’t even acknowledge my presence and just keeps hammering. I figure he’s insane. We are not going to catch back on so what is the point of mortgaging your fitness for tomorrow just saving a few minutes on GC? Whatever.

We get to the hill and he climbs like a beast. He must have flatted. This guy did not belong OTB. I settle back down into semi-TT mode and complete my final two laps to finish somewhere in the basement, down maybe four minutes or something.

As it turned out , Pete was out there all that time behind me. He got a bike change from the SRAM guys and it took a few minutes to put his pedals on. He had asked the ref if he was going to miss the time cut if he waited for the pack to come around and the ref seemed to think it was possible.

Of course, it’s not possible, since one lap is only a ninth of the time and the time cut would be a fifth, but the official must have forgotten this. Pete therefore did an unannounced 40km TT. Kind of like my day one at Killington.

After the race, he figured his bike was trashed. I saw it. The rear derailleur was jammed into the cassette and the chain was all wrapped up in the wheel. I figured his limit screws were set wrong for the low end and he threw the chain off the cassette. I talked him into going with me to the big bike shop nearby before getting too upset about trashing the frame. Sure enough, the mechanic at the bike shop was able to straighten out the derailleur hanger and replace the mech and cable. Bike works great now…

And a lot cheaper than a new frame.

On the agenda: Eat, sleep. Eat some more. Sleep. Dream about eating. Eat.

Tomorrow: Big race with roads that have the word ”mountain” in them.