Friday, September 27, 2019

DRIVEWAY, CHAMPIONSHIP LOOP

     This was the last night of racing at the Driveway; the season is over.  I'm not sorry to see it end, I'm tired of racing in 100° heat.  My Garmin shows an interesting piece of data: the race started at 5 pm at 100° but after fifteen minutes the temperature had dropped to 90°, on average two degrees every lap for the first five laps, then leveled off.  I'd like to say I stayed with the group for the first lap, and that is marginally true.  I did stay with them up the corkscrew and through the finish line and I was ahead of folks.  Officially I was 54th of 59 starters.  Then it was back to time trialing.  After a few more laps, Brian dropped back to accompany me and give me a pull, but by then I couldn't hang with him.  This is where I need to improve.
     In an earlier post I opined that most of the racers aren't in it to win, just to race.  Probably less than a dozen really have a chance.  That certainly includes me.  My goals are to hang with them two laps (hasn't happened yet), and not finish last.  So far, I haven't finished last.  I think if you pull up USA Cycling and check their results I'll show as having finished 42/59.  That looks good, but included in that are those who were involved in an incident or had a mechanical or just dropped out.  I suspect I finished ahead of the same five as the first lap.  At Nationals, USAC had me listed as the favorite in the criterium, mainly because I was the only one with any recorded races.  Flaw in the system.
     I thought I worked hard last night and was looking forward to seeing the data.  But apparently I was still in oxygen debt when I got home, because I'd forgotten a few things to bring it up.  Here is the explanation: Several weeks ago my Garmin 520 stopped syncing with Garmin Connect and automatically uploading my rides.  So I went to manually uploading, dragging and dropping.  That really isn't much of a problem, just a half-dozen clicks of the mouse.  Last night I clicked on the file and dragged it over.  To my consternation, when I then pulled up Strava, it only was the cool down ride.  In a brain-fog, I concluded I must have double-clicked the start-stop button.  Several hours later it occurred to me that the warm-up and race data were separate entries and all I had to do was drag both of them over. Voila!
     The data confirms my perception.  Strava shows two PR's.  Both on the first lap when I was with the group.  Training Peaks gave me four bronze medals for HR, and a silver, for 20 minutes HR (154).  My high heart rate of 160 came as I hooked onto the group as they passed the first time.  That didn't last long and left me gasping for air.  My lap times were consistent, the slowest lap recorded was because I had to slow down while the peloton blew by me on a curve.  My average cadence of 89 was good, with a high of 115.  The power numbers were 170 average and 186 normalized, which is less than the 182/193  the last time I did this.
     There is one category that gives balm to my ego.  On the Strava segments, I'm the only one in the 75+ category, thus the leader.  There isn't anyone in the 70-74. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

REFLECTIONS ON JESTER (THE HILL)

     Several years ago, I posted (see April 20, 2017) about how as I got older I moved from a standard crank to a compact to a triple as I struggled to ride up Courtyard and Jester.  Yesterday I again did my hill route and my time was pretty good.  That got me to looking back over the years.  Thus this post.
     I first started recording my hill ride in 2008.  The route consists of climbs up Rain Creek, Courtyard, Jester, Bluegrass, Lost Horizon, and Fire Oak with an elevation gain of about 1575 feet over nineteen miles.  On days I really don't have the oomph, I skip Jester and go up Champion Grandview Way, but that is recorded separately.  I have a spreadsheet devoted solely to when Jester is included.
     This is always a hard workout.  Some days are better than others.  Through 2014 my average times were in the low 80's (minutes), and I still used one hour, thirty minutes as my benchmark.  The fastest time recorded was one hour, seventeen minutes, forty-eight seconds.  I don't have HR data for that ride, but my average cadence was 69, up until yesterday the fastest I have pedaled.  Fast times really depend on the wind direction and red lights, which is why I don't really fuss unless I exceed 95 minutes.   I haven't used Moving Time because the old computer only gave elapsed time and I prefer consistent data.  But I may start, adding another column to the spreadsheet.
     My fastest time, which is usually going down Rain Creek toward the golf course, is 45.3 mph.  Coming down off Courtyard is also quick, but with the stop sign at the bottom I'm usually more prudent about letting it run.  Most of the time I hit 40 unless the wind is in my face.
     In 2009 I recorded a high heart rate (HR) of 168 which was probably my absolute maximum.  Since that time I've used it as my max to set zones.  However, since then I rarely get into the 160's and for the last few years the low 150's have been the norm (not counting racing at the Driveway which has seen me top out at 163).  In setting that 168 I spent a whopping eleven minutes, eleven seconds in zone 5.  The most time in zone 5 was nineteen minutes, thirty-four seconds but my time was average.  That was in 2010 and I suspect I had a bad day and was really working hard and not getting much out of it.  My best times come when I'm between four and seven minutes.  BTW, yesterday my time was eighty-eight minutes, with five minutes in zone 5, with an average cadence of 70.
     I only did three hill climbs that included Jester in 2018, although another four were the lesser alternate route.  2013 (not 2012) was the year I did this the most, twenty-six times.  Most years were between four and eight.  This year should exceed eight.  I'm hoping to get in some faster times.  This route has lots of Strava segments, and I'd like to lead the 75+ group on some of them.  Whoever Remington Hillride is, he is my target.
   
   

Monday, September 16, 2019

FT. HOOD STATE ROAD RACE CHAMPIONSHIPS

     Wow!  I didn't see THAT coming!!  But let's start at the beginning.  Our race started at 2:25 pm, so I left the house at 11:25 am, stopped for gas, and arrived at 12:40 pm or about five minutes before I had planned to.  I always wear my A&M kit at Ft. Hood and at the senior games in College Station.  I planned to warm up in a BSS jersey then switch to the dry one for the race.  Halfway to Copperas Cove I realized that the two jerseys were still hanging in my closet.  Pook!  Not to worry, I always have extra bike stuff in the car for times like this.
     My thirty minute warm up went well.  Legs felt good, heart rate brought up to 140, finished in time to change jerseys, strap on my small Camelbak and put a fresh 24 oz. bottle in the cage, drink Pickle Juice, and rest a few minutes before coming to the start line.  There were sufficient 70+ riders that we had our own group, rather than having to start with the 60+ guys.  And there were enough (6 I think) in the 75+ group that we had our own medal race.  It was 96 degrees with a brisk (some might say strong) wind out of the east-southeast.  The course runs north-northeast for a little over fifteen miles, south-southwest for a little under fifteen miles, then west for about three miles.
     I knew about half the riders and knew the "young" guys would set a strong pace in the mostly downhill first four miles.  We started the first couple hundred meters being reasonable, then they ramped it up.  I caught on to Tom's wheel when he came by and five of us followed a rabbit, leaving the others gapped.  We did the first four miles in 10:35 before the first hill.  This has a 10% ramp and usually separates the weaker riders.  I still clung to Tom's wheel, but Whitney gapped three of us and was off in pursuit of the rabbit (whose name I didn't know, but he was a teammate of Whitney's).  I was feeling good.  Heart rate was in the 140's for the downhill race and only hit 154 for the climb.
     Then it was off to the second hill at mile seven and a half.  This is about a half mile climb with ramps of 9% and on the second ramp I lost Tom's wheel and in the blink of an eye he had twenty yards and that was the closest I came until climbing on the podium.  I checked my mirrors, nobody in sight.  It was time trial time for the rest of the race.  We had some downhill and after a few of those I noticed a bike in my mirror.  He was making up a lot of ground on the descents.  At the start of the race I noticed a lot of guys sitting on their top tubes and he was one of them.  I'm not ready to do that yet.  Eventually he caught up and I saw he wasn't in my age group (a young guy at 71).  Then, just before the turn, another rider caught me, Sean.  He was also in the younger group.
     I made the turn and made a quick stop for a Gu.  It was also a water stop but I figured I had plenty of liquid so didn't take any.  The hoped for wind over my left shoulder didn't materialize.  It was on my left shoulder ok, but the front left.  Sean was my rabbit.  He hung about 100 yards ahead and stayed between 100 yards and a quarter-mile for the next eight or so miles.
     Meanwhile, I began having difficulties.  The strain of fighting the wind by myself, climbing, and the heat had taken a toll I hadn't anticipated.  Now, rather than pushing at a reasonable 142 heart-rate, I was having trouble at 132.    Fred came whizzing by me on a downhill.  Fred is ten years older than me and continues to be faster.  Definitely, I was over-heated,  reduced to noodling in for the last ten miles, with two tough climbs before a right turn and the wind at my back.  But I was better off than Sean, who was cramping big time.  On one of the climbs I finally passed him as he slowly zig-zagged his way up the hill.  I was also better off than Jaime.  I'd dropped him on the first hill, but like Fred, he was in pursuit.  Unfortunately, he became disoriented and missed a turn and fell into a ditch.  While he wasn't hurt, he was unable to remount his bike and the sag wagon told him his race was over.  It was about this time that my neck started to cramp.  This is a big tell-tale to me that I haven't been drinking enough fluid.  I took the last dregs of the water bottle (with Nuun), then discovered that the Camelbak was also empty.  Should have taken them up at the water stop.
     The right turn finally came, but with the wind at my back also came a big hill.  I felt better as I increased cadence in a small cog.  Once at the top, even though the climb continued at 1-3%, I could move down a gear, then another, and I was almost at a decent speed.  My heart-rate returned to the 140's and I started feeling better.  The leaders of the ladies group that started after us came by.  Fortunately I didn't have anyone to sprint against, although I could have.
     Rather than immediately go into a cool down ride, I headed for the car and a fresh bottle of water.  After some large gulps, I got back on the bike to cool down.  I had very little energy and mostly just sat in the saddle, not bending my neck, and drank water.  Rather than ten minutes, I only took six.  But that was good because as I was getting off my bike I heard my name on the loud speaker being called to the podium.  Andy verified I'd finished behind Fred and directed me to the 3rd place spot on the podium.  I went over and sat down on it, took off my helmet, drank more water.  Tom and Fred came over, as did Jaime, just to get in the picture.  As you can see, they took the picture before I could straighten up.  Then again, I had a hard time straightening up.
     We sat in the tent and discussed the race.  I drank more water and eventually my vision became clear.  After fifteen-twenty minutes it was time to head for home.  This morning as I write this, my legs feel good but my neck and shoulders still are stiff.  I can't remember the last time my shoulders were stressed.
     Interestingly enough, my time from the start to the first turn was exactly the same as when I reconned the course by myself a couple weeks ago.  And my recon was ten minutes faster than the race.  Perhaps I should have noodled up the first two hills.  Or, do harder, longer training rides.  Well, this is the end of the racing season, other than a couple of Driveway crits.  Time to start planning next year's agenda.
   

Friday, September 6, 2019

DRIVEWAY 9/5

     Well, things didn't go as planned.  But I (involuntarily) did re-learn one thing: a proper warm up is essential.  And another thing: Statistics can be deceiving, especially if used deceivingly.  So this is how my evening went yesterday.
     Still one hundred degrees.  I arrived at the Driveway early, so set up a chair in the shade and drank a bottle of water.  Four-fifteen, time to warm up.  I filled up my water bottle and proceeded to ride around the parking lot for fifteen minutes until it was time to open up the track.  That time came and went, and I continued to circle around, alternating high cadence and high gear.  They never did open the course for warm ups.  I never did get my heart rate up to race speed.  Legs were good, cardio not so much.
     Due to the lessening daylight hours, the racing groups have been compressed and we now have the Cat 3 racers in our group.  Guy informed me that they usually go one mph faster.  That probably means they go 3-4 miles faster down the slope.  So off we go.  Even starting at the back I was able to move up a bit because I clipped in on first try and am in the proper gear.  Heart rate jumped in a hurry and I'm hoping not to go in the red too soon.  As we rounded the S curve and start down the slope, I hit the accelerator hard and was super pleased to be hanging in.  Too fast!  I had forgotten where the turn was!  Pook, ding-fu!!
     Now on the outside of the wide turn, having to brake slightly, watched folks pass on the inside and just like that, lost the group.  How quickly fortunes change.  I managed to catch on to Amy and Joella, fresh from high altitude fun in Colorado.  Amy and I traded off for a couple of laps, with Joella trailing slightly.  She finally caught back on.  I was third in line when the peloton came whizzing by, on the S curve.  We stayed left, but I got squeezed on a curve and lost position.  I also lost Amy and Joella who didn't have to slow down.  So now I was on my own.
     This is a fast course and the group rode hard.  So I got lapped again, and again had to slow because they again caught me on the S bend.  They hadn't dropped a lot of riders, so it was a long, strung out group taking a long time to pass.  Anyhow, I saw a dropped rider up ahead and knew we were on the same lap.  He was pretty much gassed and if we didn't get pulled off course for the last lap, I might catch him.  We didn't get pulled and on the last uphill I caught on to his wheel, stayed there for a few seconds, then accelerated away, not to finish last.
     Now for the stats.  My average cadence was 89, more or less what I've been doing.  My heart rate of 150/158 was a bit low, and my speed dropped back to 19.6mph.  But my average power increased to 180 watts.  I worked harder and went slower.  I'm blaming the inability to warm up properly and not remembering the course, causing me to get dropped too soon. I can't compare HR with my younger teammates but the power numbers are interesting.  I did an average of 180 watts which generated 19.6 mph.  Teammate #1 did 183 watts for 24.7 mph, average cadence 98; #2 did 183 watts for 25.9,  cadence 91; #3 did 208 watts for 22.3 mph (perhaps he was dropped also, thus having to push harder for his speed).  As Todd has told me many times: you go faster with less energy when inside the group.  Of course, I've known that for years, but now have the numbers to prove it.
      I need to get a proper warm up.  So far, I haven't settled on what to do, consistently, to achieve that.  I know that cadence ladders will get the HR up and I can achieve that on Great Northern.  Somehow that hasn't translated to other areas.  I may have to bring the trainer and set that up.  Stay tuned.
   

Friday, August 30, 2019

DRIVEWAY 8/29

     Time for a little retrospective on racing at the Driveway.  After dipping my toes in this adventure, I've decided to go all in for next year.  So I purchased a timing chip rather than rent one.  This is a five-year purchase, so will save money in the long run.
     I was super pleased to be able to hang with the group for two laps last night.  However, after the race Todd pointed out that I could have saved more energy had I pushed up into the pack on the back straight.  At the time, while I agreed I could have, it seemed somewhat pointless in that within the next several hundred yards, I would have been relegated to the back of the pack as they accelerated up the incline.  But that is what has led to this introspection.
     In looking at the stats this morning, my average speed is up, as is my average power, but my average heart rate is down a few beats.  So, what am I thinking?  Why didn't I push a bit harder to get in the draft of the peloton?  I think I have a (misplaced) fear of over-extending myself and running out of steam before the end of the race.  This is irrational, given my current level of fitness.  It's only a thirty minute race.
     After getting dropped, I hooked up with two other riders plus a trio of mentors.  Under their tutelage, we managed to trade off leading, and pushed our way around the course.  Since we were a group to ourselves, I could hold my HR down a bit.  But this is the rub: I am racing here to improve my fitness so I need to go all out and not be content to cruise around after getting dropped.  There are three more races this season.  I'll be looking to go 100% in those.

Friday, August 23, 2019

WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

     Actual data versus "feels like" otherwise known as Perceived Exertion. Yesterday at my return to the Driveway, I once again met my goals of hanging with the peloton for a lap (this time a lap plus a little more) and only getting lapped once.  I also managed to lap one rider, and finished ahead of several others.  Official results aren't posted yet, but I count some of the DNFs, those not taken out by a crash.  I felt good, worked hard, and saw impressive, for me, numbers in the stats.
     Training Peaks tells me I set four (4) Peak Performances: 5 second heart rate (163), 1 minute HR (162), 5 minute HR (158), and 10 minute HR (156).  Considering I have a max HR of 169, that's impressive.   Of course, there is no way I could sustain the 160's for any length of time, and once I waved good-bye to the group, the HR dropped back to the 158 range.  The last lap was in the high 140's.
     As for the race itself, it was fun on the first lap, powered up the hill without difficulty, 700 watts and holding back a bit to stay on a wheel.  Accelerating on the back stretch is where I hit my highest HR but when it came to the next acceleration, I had to back off a bit.  But I wasn't the only one.  A few hundred yards ahead was a guy in a pink jersey and I was slowly reeling him in.  However, after another lap he opted to not finish, so I lost my carrot.  After a couple more laps by myself, Carla my mentor, gave me a break and took the front for a few more laps and helped drag me up to one of the other dropped riders. We got out of the way of the peloton and tried an acceleration to jump on the back, but I was too late.  That was my second highest wattage reading.  Then it was cruise around for another two laps.
     I cooled down for six plus minutes on the bike, consuming the Nuun left in my water bottle, stopped off at the water coolers and refilled with plain water and drank that.  Changed out of my bike shoes, returned the timing chip, and had another bottle of water.  All in all, it took a good twenty minutes for any semblance of normalcy to return.
     Now for the real shocker, the comparison to my races in Colorado.  In the time trial, my average speed was 20.9, last night 20.2, average wattage 171 vs. 167, average HR 137 vs. 154.  In the criterium, my average speed was 19.9 vs. 20.2,  average HR 133 vs. 154 (I've left out the power since I followed a wheel the whole race).  So, for the last two weeks I've been whining and complaining about my muscles not performing up to par, but apparently the only muscles under-performing were the heart and lungs.  Well, even that is an over-statement.  Yes, my HR in Colorado was twenty beats low, but apparently the legs were supplied enough oxygen to be able to put out the same amount of power.  I'm flabbergasted.  As Professor Dumbledore told Harry when asked if it were all real or imagined: "It's all in your head."  I need to process this revelation for awhile.

Monday, August 19, 2019

USAC MASTERS NATIONALS- STATISTICAL POST MORTEM

     Perhaps you couldn't tell from the previous post that I was extremely disappointed in my performance.  Not necessarily my placement, while I might have been able to improve one place, I earned what I expected.  After each race or set of races, I review the stats, so this is a short entry.
     The most telling stat comes from Training Peaks.  I managed to drop ten Fitness points leading up to the races.  The inability to train hard took its toll.  Heart rate took another hit.  At the Driveway, I average 150-153 (90% of max), with a max of 157.  My time trial had an average of 137 with a max of 147 and the road race 130 with a max of 142.  To be fair the TT was relatively flat at an altitude of 5300 feet and the road race had monster hills at 6500 to 7,000 feet.  Still, I couldn't get the muscles to go any harder.
     For the thirty-five minutes of the time trial I averaged 172 watts which is about what I have done at the Driveway.  The road race had me down to 130 watts.  Part of that was because there was a lot of downhill, but I just had nothin' going up.  I generated more power today, with a lower HR,  doing cadence drills on Great Northern.
     You may have noticed I didn't include the criterium.  Once we lost the peloton and it was just the two of us, it was more or less a Merckx Time Trial with me along for the ride.  The HR was 133 with 139 watts.
     We've been back for a week and my body is just now starting to return to "normal."  I've been watching the Tour of Utah and have lots more respect for the guys working so hard at altitude.  Hopefully by the time Thursday rolls around I'll have some legs for the Driveway.