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.
   

Saturday, August 17, 2019

USAC NATIONALS, COLORADO SPRINGS

     In terms of cycling, this was a colossal mistake!  It wasn't a disaster, so we'll call it a learning experience.   The trip itself included going up Pike's Peak and touring the Garden of the Gods and the Air Force Academy, specifically the chapel.  Chris and his family came for a week and enjoyed white water rafting and Pike's Peak.  My older brother from Smyrna, GA came to watch me race.  All good.  But, for this post, I'm relating only the cycling.
     Back up to last year.  I competed at the USAC Nationals in Augusta and came home with a third and fourth place so was quite pleased with my performance.  So much so I determined to give it another go this year.  One must guard against hubris.  I constructed an excellent plan to bring me to optimum form for the races.  This included arriving three weeks early to give my body time to adjust to the altitude, two weeks of hard work and a week of tapering.  What could go wrong!
      We arrived at 3 pm, settled into the Airbnb and in the evening did a short stroll in the neighborhood.  The next morning I hopped on the Cottonwood Trail, one of the myriad bike paths in and around Colorado Springs.  This was a "get acquainted" ride, just cruising around.  As it turned out, it was six miles downhill, turn around, six miles uphill.  Not steep.  Reality then smacked me in the face: my body doesn't like 6,500 feet.  My muscles weren't getting the oxygen they needed.  This dinky ride wiped me out.   
     The time trial course was forty-seven miles away, minor rolling, out and back. The road race course was at the Air Force Academy, 11.3 miles around, three laps. The criterium course was in a new subdivision, egg-shaped, with two minor big-ring inclines and 1.2 miles around.  My first practice ride consisted of a half-hour recon of the crit course, breakfast, then out to the AFA. I did two laps, struggled up the two-mile 4% grade, and barely made it up the shorter 8% one.  An hour and a half later I packed it in, went home and could do nothing for the rest of the day.  My game plan, so meticulously worked out, wasn't going to happen.  I simply couldn't put in the hard work needed.  Plan B: similar workouts, just not as hard nor as long.
     I took the next day off and we went sightseeing.  The following day I was back at the AFA trying to convince myself that the first time was an off day.  Nope.  Same thing, no push on the 4% grade and barely able to hold cadence on the 8%.  To be clear, the 4%er is over two miles long and had ramps up to 9% and the 8%er had a couple of double-digit ramps.  The third climb was short, but also had double-digits.  After that it was five miles of downhill before hitting the hills again.  Two laps and I was cooked.  The race is three laps for us old guys.
     The next day, Saturday, I was up early and went down to the TT course.  It is a dead-straight, slightly rolling country road.  I first drove the whole course then parked and did an abbreviated seven and a half mile recon on my TT bike.  Much better than the monster last year.  In all, I did three more days on the crit course, two more days riding the road race course, and two more days doing TT practice (although I did it on the AFA road rather than drive to the actual course).  That brings us to the actual racing.
     The time trial was the first competition and we arrived early because parking was going to be a problem.  Miraculously and thankfully, the rancher who lived at the start line volunteered his field for parking, so the competitors would be close to their vehicles for any needed supplies.  The weather was good, only a slight wind.  I did my normal warm-up and prepared to race.  It went off without a hitch, I felt good.  By this time I had resigned myself to a less-than-stellar performance, but still gave it my best shot.  My plan called for 22 mph, reality had me coming in at 19.9.  That was good enough for fifth place, which at Nationals is a podium finish.  I was pleased.
     A day off, then it was road race time.  I seriously considered skipping the race so as to have fresh legs for the criterium.  But I'd put in a lot of time all year preparing for this, so poor performance or not, I decided to see what happened.  The first two miles were slightly downhill with a tailwind (as was the finishing three miles), and I thought I was mid-pack, cruising along effortlessly.  As it turned out, I was at the back of the pack and when the road turned up, and I got dropped, there were only a few guys behind me.  Bummer!  Fortunately a slightly stronger guy passed and I latched on to his wheel and stayed there for the next two miles.  On the next hill I got a gap and really left him behind on the downhill.  Going over the next hill I didn't see him in my mirror, and then really got going on the five miles of downhill with the wind at my back.  I was by myself for the whole next lap and saw no one in my mirrors.  Strava indicates I was only two minutes slower on the second lap.  Going into the third time up the two mile hill I saw a rider in my mirror.  Pook! ding-fu!  He passed me rather easily, and was in my age group.  I wondered how such a strong rider had gotten behind me to start with.  Oh well!  I struggled on and got that hill over with.  Downhill then on to the next, harder one.  The legs were really toasted, but I felt good about my performance and looked forward to the downhill.  About half-way up the next, short hill a guy came  up on my left and said "I thought I'd never see you again."  I looked over and saw the guy who pulled me up the first lap and replied "I thought the same thing about you."  He then proceeded to put about ten yards into me as we crested the hill.  Not a problem, I'm faster than he is going down.  Well, he kept his position and we came to the last hill, which can be taken in the big ring.  He put another twenty yards into me.  The last three miles are downhill, with the wind at our backs.  I had a compact, he had 53 teeth.  No contest.
     No complaints.  I finished fifteen minutes faster than my projected time, finished stronger than anticipated, and finished eighth.  Not too shabby.  I was bummed that I'd been caught by a guy who'd been dropped on the first lap.  Strava shows I lost an additional two and a half minutes on the last lap so apparently he held his speed the whole way.  Still, better than not competing.
     The next day was the criterium.  I was looking forward to hanging in for at least twenty of the forty minutes.  This is a combined group with the younger guys (70-74).  For the first time in years, when the gun went off I couldn't get clipped in.  Three lost pedal strokes and I was behind almost everybody.  I frantically got moving, putting myself in the red and made up a little ground.  I found a wheel to follow and hung on.  As it turned out, it was the same guy who beat me yesterday.  All of my practice rounds had been in the morning and the wind wasn't a factor.  This was 2:00 pm and a fairly strong wind was in our face going up the two hills.  We had lost the peloton, but were ahead of at least one guy in our age group plus some older guys.  He continued to pull, I continued to suck wheel.  We picked up a younger guy, but rather than work with us, he would pull ahead going downhill and fall back going up.  He did this for four laps before falling back for good.
     On one of the laps I heard someone call out to us "Mike, you got forth place" or words to that effect.  Same thing on the next couple of laps.  In the back of my mind I'm still replaying getting caught from behind, so I made a decision.  I pulled up next to my benefactor and said that if he would drag me around the course to the end I wouldn't contest the finish.  Here was my calculation:  there isn't really much distinction between forth and fifth place, both get on the podium, plus I'm not really a cutthroat type of racer (different calculation if this were going to be for first place).  So he continued for the next four laps and we finished the race.
     Now the sad part:  his name is Charles, not Mike.  He didn't come in forth, he came in fifth, I came in sixth.  Again, I'm not second guessing myself.  He was the stronger rider, there was no way we could have caught up with the other guys, and it would have been futile for me to try to drop him.  I'll just have to get stronger/faster next year.  Of course, if Nationals is again in Colorado Springs, I'll pass.  I won't be racing at altitude again.

Friday, July 12, 2019

DRIVEWAY 7/11

     Last night we were back on the same course and direction as my first foray into racing at the Driveway.  The results were quite an improvement, generally speaking.
     I benefited from a mostly northerly wind, in that it slowed the peloton down a bit, allowing me to hang on for a full lap.  That was my first goal.  It also resulted in a lap time a full minute faster than the previous race.  I could hear Todd yelling for me to close it down as I passed the spectators, but I was already on the rivet and couldn't muster any more speed.  According to Strava I was three beats short of my maximum HR, so technically I guess I could have done more.  Clearly, my legs strength is not matching my cardio/vascular so that needs to be corrected.
     Each of my remaining laps were progressively slower, albeit each one was faster than the first time on this course.  I know I passed one rider before being helped out for two laps by my teammate, Dave Luplow, who had been caught up behind a crash.  He led me around, although I had to holler for him to slow down.  That was quite helpful, especially going into the wind.  The crash, not their fault, took out five ZFG riders and a handful of others.   
     Last time I was lapped three times, this time only once.  Mostly it was because the peloton wasn't as fast, and some of it was me going faster.  My average speed was 1.3 mph faster at 19.9 mph.  This is somewhat perplexing, in that I can do that when out by myself, not racing, with a whole lot less HR.  With Dave leading me, I forgot to put on a sprint for the line.  Just as well.
     Next week is the speed loop, but it's also two days before I leave for Colorado Springs.  I believe I'll just be spectating, as it would be poor form to have any sort of injury right before Nationals.

Friday, July 5, 2019

AM I GETTING BETTER?

     That's a rhetorical question.  I think I'm getting better and Training Peaks thinks I'm getting better, so we have consensus.  But to get faster at The Driveway, I need to get my head in the game.  Last night during my warm-up, the legs weren't happy.  The sensation of power just wasn't there.  I was resigned to another disappointing outing.  And then:
     As we lined up for the start I saw the guy who originally inspired me to give it a go.  This is a negative comment.  I first saw him two years ago.  The peleton would lose him in the first 500 yards, and he would be lapped multiple times.  And yet, he persisted.  Why would an old guy come out and embarrass himself week after week.  Same thing the next year.  I opined to my friends that I'm faster than he, I should go out and beat him, then invite him to partake in the Senior Games where he could race against guys his own age.  By the way, I was told he was 62.  Turns out he is 72, but that's still in a younger age group than me.  Anyhow, this would be my first opportunity to see if I really could take him.  I figured if anything, I'd draft then out-sprint.
     Well, he is faster than when I first saw him, but his start hasn't improved.  Fifty yards from the start, he had already lost the group.  I accelerated around him and tagged on, into the wind.  So from the start I knew I wouldn't finish last.  This Championship Loop doesn't have the long straightaway of the Grand Prix course, and I lost the guys on the first turn.  Like last time, they didn't leave me in the dust, just gradually pulled away.  But this time I had company.
     I feel no guilt in drafting a much younger guy.  With folks my own age I'd trade off leading, but this time I just sucked wheel for three laps.  He would pull away slightly but I was faster in the corners and catch back up.  I especially stayed tight going into the wind.  He finally slowed a bit and I moved up to take my turn leading.  But he was done and couldn't hold on, so I was once again by myself.
     On the fifth lap the peleton passed.  I'd moved out to the right to give them space and all went well, for the most part.  This was a big group, and after about fifty guys went by I tagged on to enjoy a bit of draft.  Unfortunately, I misread the gap, and another group of about twenty-five were closing in, and we had a curve coming up.  I slowed a bit and tried to make myself as small as possible as they passed.   I don't think I impeded their speed too much.  Then it was back to time-trialling another four laps until they caught me again.  This time I slowed a bunch and they went by without a hitch.
     Because of the large group, course marshals were pulling lapped riders.  The announcer said starting with five laps to go, but I kept getting waved through until two laps to go.  I finished with nine laps, the leaders with fourteen.
     Now for some stats.  My average speed was .5 mph slower than the last time.  However, the last time we had that long straightaway where we could hold some speed.  My max speed was the same at 32.5.  I didn't work as hard, per my HR.  Last time 150/158 and this time 149/156.  That is still in the 95% range.
     There were a handful of guys who dropped out, so technically I finished ahead of them.  I also lapped my inspiration guy, who dropped out after five laps.  One other finisher was slower than me.  My philosophy is not to sprint to avoid last place, so I lost a place by one second.  Afterwards I berated myself for not doing an out-of-saddle sprint.  I'm not doing these as races, but as training.  It would look like bad form to sprint, but I need the practice.  Next time I'll be sprinting.