Monday, December 28, 2009

Training - Florida Training Camp Day 6 - Pushing Through

Today I went for a ride with DM, the first guy I rode with here. We set off on the Suncoast Trail again, this time further north. We did a nice loop to the northern end of the 41-odd mile trail.

Unlike the other portion we did, this part of the trail had numerous short rollers. I seemed to hit about 400 watts on every single one. Not an easy effort, for sure. By the time we turned around I could feel the effort in my flanks.

I mentioned this to DM - at home I rarely ride in the same position for, say, an hour, so I keep recruiting new muscles. When I climb I stand, when I descend I'm off the saddle (or tucked), and I regularly stand when accelerating out of corners and bends and such.

Here, not so much. Okay, fine, the trail moves around a bit, but in general you rarely need to move your tush off the saddle. This means a lot of riding in the same position which means a lot of riding using the exact same muscles.

I thought riding on the trainer was muscularly monotonous - flat lands are even more so. On the trainer I tend to move around a bit more, I don't know why. Flat lands, not so much.

And, with flat terrain comes something else - wind.

The wind acted as a steady resistance unit. With a reasonably strong west wind on a north-south route, we fought the wind there and back. You know how everyone complains about having a headwind all the time? It's because you rarely have an actual straight on headwind - instead, normally the wind hits you at an angle. When you turn around, it hits you from another angle, and it could be almost as unfriendly as the first one.

Case in point? Monday's ride.

I could only think of the epic Classics while we rode leaning slightly westward, the echelons, the scrabble to get to the front group. In particular I thought of Gent-Wevelgem of this year, when Cervelo blew apart the field in the first hour of racing in a strong crosswind.

The combination of a team drilling it at the front, the strong crosswind, and a couple inattentive favorites meant that the race exploded in a totally unpredictable way. The lead group, lacking the big star Tom Boonen, pushed hard to hold their advantage, and only towards the end it seemed possible for the front group to finish first.

Anyway, crosswinds are the cat's whiskers of bike racing. And I felt like a flahute, kinda sorta, battling it out with my invisible foe.

I wanted to do an effort at some point, some jump, some sprint, some something big, but by the time I felt warmed up I was also feeling a bit run down. The chilly wind really bit through my kit - 62 degrees or so, breezy, sun setting, and me in shorts like a dummy - and my legs started getting a bit stiff.

I suppose in a race I'd have hoarded my strength and done something, but not on a simple training ride.

I laughed to myself and explained to DM that this inevitably happens on long winter-time rides when I'm thinking of next season. I keep thinking I'm going slow, I'm too weak, stuff like that.

My teammate John told me something like this happened to him one winter. He rode the winter, long rides, nice base type miles, but couldn't go very fast. Big ring, big cogs, but nothing crazy fast.

Then he went to the first training race of the year. He stood up and launched an attack at the start/finish on a one mile circuit, sprinting away from the field.

Half a lap later he sat down.

A soon-to-be-pro joined him, and together they quickly put a half lap on the field. Ultimately John flatted with half a lap to go, but he had made his point.

Those long winter rides really do something for the legs.

So, on the years where I could get out, I'd try and do some of the same kind of steady rides in the winter. I poke along, look at the speed (or heart rate or power, depending on how recently said winter ride took place), and think, "Oh, man, I am just crawling."

Then, when I get to my first race, I find myself "crawling" at the same heart rate or power or whatever, but at the front of the field, looking around at all the suffering faces.

At least that's the hope.

I told DM that each year I think there's just no way it'll be like that this year, that this time I'll get to my first race and suffer and scramble for wheels and be at the back of the field. Each year I think of reasons why this year would be different.

In my case I'm looking at all sorts of stuff that should make me go really fast right now.

First, I'm lighter than normal. This should make going up little rollers in Florida a breeze.

Second, even though I'm lighter than normal, I've been eating a bit more than normal (and carbs and such at that). This means I should have enough fuel not to bonk or feel weak.

Third, I keep telling myself I'm only slightly off of my relative peak fitness of July/August. This means I ought to have some decent power in my legs.

Of course, the data seems to argue otherwise. I'm struggling at 400 watts, I can't break 1200 watts on a really hard sprint (and that's peak power, not 5 second power), and I kept watching DM ride away from me on the small rollers and such.

So I kept scrambling for DM's wheel, kept the pressure up on the little rollers, and thought about how I'm just crawling right now.

I reminded myself that it's not even January, that I have a week and change in San Diego coming up at the end of January, that I have another week I've committed to spend training at the end of February. That these miles and hours would go a long way to jump-starting my season.

I thought of my diet, how I'll be able to better control what I ate when I'm back at home. No more 1100 calorie breakfasts or 2000 calorie dinners, no more 40-60 grams of fat at one meal instead of less than that for the whole day. That maybe, just maybe, my home food diet would mean my weight would drop into the 150s.

And I kept churning the pedals on the Suncoast Trail, hoping that my legs would magically get good for the first race of the year.

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