Friday, August 06, 2010

Racing - August 3, 1020 @TuesdayTheRent

I've had a bit of an off period for a few days, with not much writing, a bit more "life experiencing" (i.e. not virtual experiences), and a bit more riding.

The second bit has to do with some of the stuff I've done in the last week - working in the yard (I tried to do it through the keyboard but somehow the soil never moved no matter what I typed), working on the car (until I had a claustrophobic moment while rubbing my nose up against a skid plate), cleaning the garage (to make room for the car), and, finally, meeting another one of the BF crew in person.

But I get ahead of myself.

Tuesday, with my bike gear in a bit of disarray, it took me a while to get going. See, normally it's either "all set" or "laundry", and in this case it was almost in "laundry" phase - I had 2 of my 3 kits in the hamper. On top of that, over the course of various races and such I've managed to misplace a bunch of things. This week I managed to misplace my Halo headband and my primary long finger gloves.

And, for weeks now, I've been riding without my coded Polar heart rate band, used with the SRM to register heart rate. I still can't find it.

Part of that season-long entropy thing that goes on with bike gear.

Now, to give myself credit, I'd actually eaten some normal food during the day, so I felt like maybe I had a chance. This is better than my normal "wolf down a Hammer bar on the way to the race" followed by "better have two gels too because I'm started to shake from bonking".

Plus I knew from the intraweb that one of the Prime Leg Breakers would be absent (he's at Nationals), so I looked forward to a race that'd be closer to my abilities than not.

With the Missus driving, new pins for the number, all my various bike gear pieces in the car (helmet, shoes, helmet cam, SRM, pump, kit, gloves, cap, bike, 2 sets HED wheels), we were on the way.

I had tossed (into metal recycling) my old pins. The sharp tips were getting less than smooth, and nothing is worse than trying to force a rusty pin into a jersey and feeling the pin take a 2mm chunk out of the jersey as it bluntly hammers its way through the fabric.

Okay, there is one thing worse. When said pin with rusty tip jams into your finger, it's worse.

Anyway, I didn't want my jersey to look like a rusty moth had attacked it, so I ditched the old pins. I'd carefully gathered all these pins the hard way - at races, a few at a time - but I skipped that bit for my next set of pins.

I raided the Bethel Spring Series supply.

I figured we wouldn't miss 18-20 pins from the 20,000+ pins in the tote full of pins, so I took them. Not only that, I took them from an already-open box, instead of opening a sealed box. So it was kind of like a box we'd already written off.

I busily pinned while the Missus drove, regaling her with tales of what happened at work and such. Two things happened while I did this: I ran out of pins (!!!) and I forgot to change in the car (which I normally do to save time - I also have to leave work 30 min early to make it to the race on time).

I had to re-pin a few pins to spread them around, and I changed at the race venue.

I saw TC (which is what SOC called him which makes sense) standing by the side of the course. Normally I first see him as he flies by in the B race, but the B race was doing its flying without him. A bit concerned, I wondered if he'd had a mechanical. His grin seemed to contradict that notion.

Then he told me - he wanted to try out the A race.

Now, I've never been one to discourage toeing the waters. Seriously. No matter what bad things I may say about me entering a P123 race (heh), it's really a good thing to do some 35 mph motorpacing in the field. Better if you can get near the front.

Having watched TC in some other races, including some of the Bethel Spring Series ones, I knew he'd be fine handling-wise. It'd be interesting to see how he handled the speed because that's where every racer has difficulty - the surges in speed.

I thought this would be an interesting race for him.

SOC was there too, looking like his normal self. When I asked him how he felt, though, he wasn't feeling 100%. Real life and such had intruded on peaking perfectly for this particular Tuesday Night World Championships, just like it had mine.

We both decided to approach the night's race as a "wait and see" race. I had no particular aspirations other than to be able to stretch my legs out here and there.

TC asked what our plan was, and to his dismay, we told him we had none. Probably not what he was looking for. I know that I'd expect more experienced racers to always have a plan (think of, say, Saxo Bank - you think they ever enter a race thinking "well, whatever happens happens"?), but today, our plan was no plan.

Not helping any was wind so strong that the car moved around a bit on the highway. It didn't let up much at the race itself, and I joked that I felt like I was at Ninigret (a beachside airport crit - flat, lots of wind, no shelter).

We lined up with a very, very small group of racers. I looked around a bit worried - this would be hard. Tons of wind, no shelter in the pack, and guys willing to really drive the pace.

I thought about it for a bit though. I knew I could find shelter in even the most extreme situations. I remembered practically riding in the bushes at Floyd Bennet Field (another waterfront airport crit), finishing the race with leaves stuck in my wheel, skewers, and stuff. I remembered clinging desperately to wheels at Ninigret, tires skimming on the edge of the pavement.

So I thought, okay, it's gonna be one of those days. Lots of desperate cross-wind shelter seeking following by massive speed on the tailwind and slowness in the headwinds. Roger that.

We started off okay, the CTSR promoter going off on a lonely mission. Ends up he wanted to work on his time trialing, and he did just that for a few laps, soloing on his own. A couple guys bridged, and suddenly this move looked a bit threatening.

After a couple others bridged, I knew the rest of us needed to do something. I did a little effort to get going and started a bridge attempt. I looked back and saw TC there - that was good, he'd just sit, force others to chase. Since no one was making moves, and since I'm not a break threat (I inevitably drop myself from breaks), no one would chase.

But when I looked back, he was clinging desperately to my wheel. Behind him I could see everyone else hanging on to him. I wasn't getting clear, I was just dragging the field up.

I jumped again, out of the saddle for just a bit, trying to break the elastic. I checked back and everyone was still there.

Later, I learned TC thought my looks were those of encouragement, to hang on, to let me drag him up the road. I explained that if he was really burying himself to stay on my wheel, he should sit up and let others bury themselves. You get less shelter behind one rider than you do behind, say, five, so if you don't have a reason to work extra hard to stay behind one rider, you let a few filter by so you get the shelter of many.

I also knew that if TC sat up, it'd be unlikely that someone would go around him. I'm not a break threat so guys won't necessarily chase me. But they'll chase two teammates who look like they have a plan, even if the teammates don't have a plan.

But TC didn't know all this, and with the "we don't have a plan" plan, he had no reason to react otherwise.

I knew I made a big effort but I didn't realize how much of an effort I made (relatively speaking).
Although it's taken me three days to even open the power file, I now know what I did - for two minutes I averaged over 350 watts, and for a minute I averaged almost 500.

That's huge for me. Huge, huge, huge. No wonder I blew up afterwards.

(Note: Jens Voight was soft pedaling in the Tour at 385 watts, his heart rate about 140. That puts my effort in perspective compared to the pros.)

I almost made it to the break before I gave up, wiggling my elbow and moving over. I was about to totally explode, and we still had about 50 minutes of racing left. I'd hoped to bridge on my own, buying myself 10 or 20 seconds of time. I could recover while sitting on, or, if the field came up, before the field caught us. I had to have about 20 or 30 seconds to get my heart rate back down, and I needed a gap to the field to buy that time.

But I had no gap and therefore no recovery time. Well, maybe 10 seconds worth.

I never recovered.

Within 5 minutes I'd popped off the back, totally in the red, my power diminishing steadily until I came off and stopped pedaling.

Frustrated, I jumped on the back of the group when they came by, but to no avail. I came off again, barely breaking 200 watts for a couple minutes. It's hard to be motivated when you're lapped, and I lost any impetus I had.

I decided, though, to get in a jump or two. I've been missing these efforts since the beginning of the year. Instead of weekly sessions of 10 or more sprints (in training), I've gotten in maybe 20 or 30 for the whole year. The last turn dumped us onto a tailwind stretch, but by the time we got to the finish line it was a moderately stiff cross-headwind. I'd jump out of the turn, use the tailwind to help me accelerate, and try and finish off the sprint into the unfriendly wind.

I rolled around until I had a clear bit of "track", with a group just about to catch me and another group a good 15 seconds ahead of me.

That's when I punched it.

I did a decent jump, a decent acceleration. I had to ease around the final curve. Then, distracted by catching the group in front, I forgot to shift up at the end (I didn't want to interfere with the guys still racing). Ends up that, regardless of the situation, it was a good sprint for me.

Let me share some metrics.

28 seconds (very long for me).

1360 max power. That's okay, but 200 under my best max of this year.
1300 for 5 seconds. That's good for me. I think.
1200 for 10 seconds. Err, I don't know if that's good or not.
1000 for 20 seconds. Seems average/low.
900 for the 28 seconds. Pretty good.

My sprints usually peak hard and decline rapidly to a sustainable output. I haven't gone 30 seconds at 1000 watts (that I know of) but my power from 10 to 20 seconds is my second strength, my jump being my first.

Max speed 38.7 mph. This really disappointed me since I thought I could easily break 40, and I'd been hoping for 42 (which used to be me default top speed - now it's about 38 mph). Problem was that the course curves for the last 100 meters or so, giving me less time to accelerate. I was going fast enough into the curve that I had to ease. In fact, I slowed severely as I went through the last bend, getting to the line at only 32 mph, huge dips in power illustrating how I tried to stay on the gas while keeping a relatively predictable line on the course.

I knew right away, based on my gearing and cadence, that I didn't have enough straight-line pavement to get up to speed. Even though I had a decent cadence (it hovered at around 120 rpm the whole time), I was short a couple gears to go to hit the low 40s.

I tried again but it was bad. I was tired, unmotivated, and demoralized. I aborted the sprint almost as soon as I started it, and turned off the course when I got to the line.

Moping a bit, I watched the rest of the race, did some of the post-race chat stuff, and then packed up to go to dinner with SOC and our respective spouses.

Later, much later, I looked at the power files.

According to the power chart, I'm still anemic in a power sense, hitting about 7 w/kg for 1 minute (Cat 5), 4 w/kg for 5 min (Cat 4), and 2.5 w/kg for FTP ("Untrained" or below Cat 5).

I hadn't really thought of my sprint as being max power (jump), first part of sprint (<5 seconds), mid sprint (10--20 seconds), and length of sprint (30 seconds). But now that I've broken down my sprint like that, I realized that I need to work on max power and the mid-sprint. That's where I can gain a lot of power, get my coordination together, work harder.

Lasting longer than 28 seconds would help too, allowing me to respond well to a variety of finishes. Normally my "long" sprints are 20-21 seconds, so to be able to go, say, 30 seconds would be huge.

Although I left demoralized from the race, after thinking about it I realized that, hey, it's not all that bad.

And, like they always say, there's next week.

Lilly (left) and Mike (paws visible) checking out the pin job. Massive pin count didn't help with my race.

PS: SOC flatted his front tire while in the lead group/break, after contesting and winning a prime. He jumped back in until the laps wound down, then sat up to allow the final bit of the race to work itself out amongst the breakaway riders. TC worked with a different group until the end of the race.


Steve said...

I wouldn't have thought power/weight was of very much interest to a sprinter, so that chart isn't a good indication of relative strength. Raw power is more important, surely?

The categories aren't helpful for climbers, either. Even the cat 4 climbers around Atlanta, GA roll with a "cat 2" power/weight for 5 mins to FT, because they so light.

Aki said...

Good point on the power. Ultimately power counts most, but the ratio helps too. I didn't think I'd be any better on flat courses with my lower weight, but I feel like I accelerate a lot more easily in general. It lets me save a lot energy in even flat terrain, giving me more gas elsewhere.

My peak power is basically the same as it was 3 years ago, when I first got power. My average wattage is about the same, ditto heart rate. I mean, yeah, it may be off by 10 or 20 watts, but there aren't any 100-200 watt earth shattering changes. Yet my results seem much more consistent, and I feel a lot better in "hard" races.

So, although w/kg may not be an end all, I think each component is significant taken separately.

Steve said...

I forgot to add that yours is a great cycling blog. The videos with commentary are always fun to watch.