Sunday, August 02, 2009

Training - Crank Speed and a Two Month Goal

I've been thinking about this idea that I haven't been upping my working threshold this year. Meaning I haven't gone to a race and raced it harder than before. As I pointed out in that post, I've plateaued in fitness, or at least in usable power. I need to change that.

One of the things I've learned (the hard way, I might add) is that I lack pedal speed.

Specifically, I lack the ability to turn high rpms at high power after a few minutes of above threshold riding (or racing). It becomes extremely apparent on the track because I can't just click up a gear and slow down my pedaling.

On the track I use a 50x15 gear, a 90" gear. I use it because, frankly, I don't have any other usable gears. I have a 48x15 (86") but I got ridden right off the back of the group within a few laps the one time I used it. I couldn't pedal fast enough.

That should have been a hint.

But with most racers using a 49x15 (88" - 2 gear inches really does make a difference, although it's hard to believe that when riding a 20 speed road bike), I kind of faked it with the 50x15. I could pedal a bit slower, be a little less supple, and still make it to the end of a bunch of races.

Then, suddenly, the races got serious - they actually counted for the Cambridge Bike Omnium Series.

And guys turned on the power.

I was distinctly thrashed by a particular guy in what I considered to be my best event, the Match Sprint. He not only nullified my jump, he actually rode away from me while I was sprinting (?!).

I mean, whoa, talk about feeling like a Cat 4 (no Cat 5s on the track, you start at 4). And that's in my sprint, my strong point.

My only point.

So, yeah, I realized that I lack pedal speed.

The fact that I started thinking about buying a 51, or even looking for a 130 BCD 53, meant that, like always, I was trying to find a technical way out of the problem. Gear up a bit, use my jump to accommodate the slower acceleration, and have a much, much bigger gear (92" or even 95") for the fast part of the race.

But like any other part of bike racing, buying stuff only gets you so far. You can't buy speed if you can't pedal the bike. Case in point - the Human Derny (as I call him) used a 48x16 initially (an 86"!), and is now using a "big" 49x15, and he smokes the A fields.

I mean he kills it. And he makes it look easy.

So I haven't bought a bigger ring. Or a 14T cog (98" gear anyone? 100"?).

Instead, I've decided I need to train to turn gears faster.

Ultimately my problem consists of an inability to turn pedals quickly, smoothly. Therefore I need to work on that.

I'll do that by riding rollers more, by using the track bike on the trainer and trying to hit new high speeds, and by doing "distance" time trials on the trainer. This will involve some modifications because both my trainer and my rollers don't work very well with the track bike. I'll work on fixing that this week and hopefully have something better by next weekend.

The other thing is that I decided I am simply not fit enough.

When I lamented my poor showing in the Match Sprint, Tony reassured me by telling me that I'm being beat by kids. And that I'm old. Kind of.

Not really reassuring right? Other than being called old, that is. I mean, if Pat Gellineau can kick butt at 57 years of age, I should be able to do the same at almost a career's worth of years less.

Pat kicks butt because he's talented (former Olympian) but he's also fit. Like really fit. Like he looks the same as he did 20 years ago when I first saw him kick butt.

Consistent with this I have some new goals. Goals are good because they motivate me. They give me distinct metrics that I can see, feel, and touch. And by keeping an eye on the long term, the short term stuff is a bit easier.

So my goals are as follows:
1. More Speed, specifically more pedal speed. Adding 2-4 mph top speed would be nice too.
2. More Smoothness, meaning being more efficient.
3. Less Belly. I've always had one, but the missus pointed out that, well, I'm a bit "wider" than I was when we first met. It wasn't that long ago so I know I can return to a "less wide" state.
4. More Fit. Meaning being able to ride at higher heart rates. This would translate to not getting dropped when it gets fast on the track, and it would also make it possible to race better.

I'll work on #1 by doing the following:
1. Put 170s back on the Cannondale. Same length as the track bike, more pedal speed, consistent muscle memory. Seat on Cannondale like on the track bike (lower) to emphasize speed while seated. 170s means a higher seat, so I may end up with the seat in the same position, just shorter cranks.
2. Get trainer and rollers track bike compatible.
3. Do lots of fixed gear work on rollers to get back suppleness.

#2's approach:
1. Spin when on group rides.
2. Watch electrolyte intake - I cramp extremely easily, sometimes within minutes of getting on the bike, and electrolytes seem to help. Spinning exacerbates this, and is one of the main reasons I prefer not to spin.

#3 will involve:
1. Diet. Not a pro "starvation" diet, but focusing on more natural foods. Not a baked sweet good every morning, or candy bars, or whatever other junk I tend to eat when working.
2. Some non-cycling efforts. Minor lifting, core exercises. Short, simple, sweet. Easy to do, easy to maintain. More muscles to support means more calories burned by default.
3. Ride on my normal off days (Thu, Fri, Sat). Even an hour is a few hundred calories, and if I can burn 500 calories a day without increasing my intake, I'll be losing a pound a week. If I decrease my intake by 500 calories a day (unlikely, but possible), I can lose another pound. I joked that at 2 pounds a week, I'll be at about a buck twenty at Bethel. I'll fly up that hill!

And #4's plan:
1. Focus when doing higher efforts, especially at East Hartford (only four left). Dig deep, don't sit up, focus on pedaling, smoothness, efficiency. Try and finish a blasted race.
2. Focus on every race at the track. When I think I can't do well, I won't, but I surprised myself by almost doing well at a couple events where I'd normally be horrible. So I'll dig deep for each event.
3. Focus on riding efficiently, in the drops, whenever possible. Think aero and fast.
4. Ride sometimes with just heartrate. This should encourage me to go harder, since my heartrate seems low compared to my percieved effort.

It's kind of odd, writing this stuff out in August. I guess that I haven't thought about this stuff too much recently (meaning the last few years), but I really want to be better in the next month or two. Therefore I need to pick up the pace, so to speak.

We'll see how it goes.

And now I gotta get on the bike.

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