Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Training - Florida Training Camp - Day 7 - Winding Down

Tuesday afternoon I set off with DM for the last ride of my trip. We'd do pretty much the last section of the Suncoast Trail that we hadn't done, about 17 miles worth. Combined with the 6 or so miles in Starkey Park (our start point), it'd be "about 46 miles" according to DM.

DM, one of my two trusty guides in Florida, in Starkey Park.

Out of Starkey Park I took some pictures of the immaculately repetitive and fake looking landscape.

Copy/Paste landscape. C/P palm bushes, c/p trees. Looks fake.

I'd swear up and down that this was all done on a computer.

I also saw a prehistoric little armadillo, probably the most fascinating thing I saw on my trip here. Spindly legs, huge armored back, the tiny pointed head... Hard to comprehend.

Spot the prehistoric animal in the picture.

No alligators, alas.

We did see a bald eagle, but I didn't have my camera out so no pictures. Just look at your closest patriotic poster and you should see one.

We headed north into a slight northern wind, maybe a 5 mph headwind. Ideally things would stay the same and the return trip would bless us with a 5 mph tailwind. DM set a steady tempo, slightly above my comfort level, and I churned along next to him, talking when I could, staying silent when I couldn't, and when I was in real trouble, tucking in behind him.

I staked out what I thought were some slight rises, keeping them in mind. I wanted to do a jump or two on the way back, and I wanted to get a decent rolling start. One stretch in particular had distinctive fencing lining a long straight, barb wire curving over the top of the fence. I decided I'd do my return jump there.

As we rode north I could feel my prior rides, the muscles used outside but not on the trainer, muscles that had forgotten what it was like to pedal a bike that could tilt side to side, muscles that pedaled when I was tired and hunkered down in the drops.

When we got to the northern trail end, the wind had suspiciously died down a touch. After a short pause (where I munched on 900 calories of "low calorie" bars), we started back. Sure enough, when we turned around, the northern wind had transformed into a western one - we'd be riding into the most annoying kind of crosswind, the kind that feels just like a headwind.

My bike in "Florida Mode"

At least yesterday we had a ferocious crosswind, one that required me to sit almost directly next to DM in order to get any kind of a draft. Today I only had to sit 6 inches to one side of his wheel to get a draft.

I felt a little more capable - the SRM told me that I was doing 180-200 pretty consistently, whereas on the way up I'd been struggling with DM's 220-240 watt pace. I learned from the prior days that he faded a bit in the second hour, and I found myself on more even terms.

I didn't want to "attack" DM unexpectedly so when we got closer to my barb-wire zone I told him I'd be doing a jump, an acceleration to test my legs.

Of course, as soon as I said that, the westward wind picked up a bunch of strength.

We came up to to my target stretch and I decided I'd let it go. I'd do the effort in Starkey Park. If I was going to fight a wind in a sprint effort, I'd do it into a headwind, not some deceiving kinda-sorta cross-headwind.

I let DM know of my updated target as we turned into Starkey Park. Hoarding some energy, I sat on his wheel a bit more, trying to stay at a low pace (under 100 watts) before my "test". We passed through the wandering bit of the trail, and when it straightened out, I launched.

I accelerated from only 19 mph, I think my 53x19, and after I got up to speed, I shifted into the 17, 15, 14, and finally the 13. I overgeared a bit, typical for my first sprints in a while. I also didn't have a goal, a finish line, even a landmark, so when I didn't feel like it I abruptly stopped pedaling.

I checked the numbers after the ride. Although a bit disappointed, I had to remember that this was not even January.

I peaked at 1268 watts, much lower than the mid-1500s I've seen as early as February of a given year, but higher than anything I've done recently.

More significantly, I held just under 1200 watts for 10 seconds, and averaged just under 1000 watts for the 22 second effort. These longer efforts bode well for the final half lap of a race, where I typically hold 1000 watts before I launch a sprint.

Leadouts, as nice as they are for the sprinter, aren't very easy, and if I'm going to see a leadout or two, I don't want to explode when my leadout man pulls off at 150 meters to go.

Towards the end of the ride, before my test, I did some reviewing. I'd found myself going to the drops after less than 90 minutes of riding. I felt much more comfortable there, with my back a bit lower, my lower back stretched out a bit. As a bonus I could use less wattage to go the same speed.

It helped that I was a bit thinner than last year. Before, when I went to the drops, I'd end up thumping my stomach with my legs. Now, not so much.

I also kept in mind my new soon-to-arrive frameset, with an effective length increase of 6 cm or so. Although it may be just cognitive dissonance, I find myself feeling cramped lengthwise. I want to stretch out, stretch that back out, and get into a nice, low position.

It reminds me of the couple times I got to see pros up close on the bike. I had the priviledge of getting passed by one Chris Horner in California, more than once in fact. I was amazed at how low he rode, even on the hoods.

The other pro I got to watch, at a crit where he rode away from a chasing P12 field, is Skip Hamblin (sp?). He may not be in the same class as Horner, but he was so fast, so smooth, he looked like he was on a motorcycle.

And that's what I think of when I see the pros race - they look like they're on a motorcycle.

Their upperbodies are low, almost motionless. Their legs spin very fast (except Mark McCormack, who looks like he's trying to break his bike, not pedal it).

And they go fast.

That's my goal, then. I want to get my long, low frameset, train in a long, low position, and go fast enough like I'm on a motorcycle.

Even if it's just for a half lap or something.

You gotta start somewhere.


Stacey said...

Aramadillo up! Words I spoke to my friend Jim years ago in Florida. What did he do, hit it smack on. Where did Jim go.....down. As a Farside cartoon popped into my head, I could only laugh. Obviously hitting the ground hurts, so my laughing was not appreciated and off he rode. But since he had no idea where to go, he eventually had to wait for me:)!

Aki said...

Heh. Apparently armadillos aren't known for their cleverness. I can't imagine hitting one though. Luckily I had no close encounters, at least none where I didn't try and get closer.