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Yesterday was day #2 of the Dingo Days of Summer Criterium.  It is a small race in Flowery Branch, but it is well run with fast scoring and quick payouts.  I think racers in Georgia should seriously consider attending these races from this promoter, Nathan O’Neil.  He puts on a midweek race called the AMP Series which is too far away midweek for most racers, so I think they lump the small turnout for those midweek races and paint all his races with that broad stroke.  That is unfair because he does a great job promoting his races, and the weekend races are very well run.  I’d like to see double the field sizes next year.  

Yesterday’s crit was raining during the start pretty hard, so it was wet and slippery out there.  For whatever reason, I can’t corner very well in the rain.  I’m not sure if it is because I race on clinchers, have a slightly less aggressive (i.e. higher setup on my bike), or just plain suck at cornering in the rain, but whatever the reason, it’s a disaster every time.  The last time I raced a crit in the rain was Roswell, and I lasted about 15 minutes.  I don’t ever crash in the rain, and that is exactly it.  I’m unwilling to push the corners away even remotely close to potentially crashing.  If a corner can be ridden safely at 18mph in the rain, then I’m probably going to take it at 16.5mph.  I’m also braking longer, so I’m coming out of every corner 3 to 4 bike lengths back each corner.  I’m sprinting up to the guy in front of me each and every corner.  After 10 – 15 minutes, that’s exhausting.  Since I’m a bigger rider (170lbs yesterday…about 6 – 7lbs over normal race weight), the sprinting out of corners at decreasing speeds relative to the riders in front of me makes it even harder.  Normally, it’s a back breaker for me, and yesterday was no different.  

We had a good team start with Charless Rossingol drilling it at the beginning to get Jordan Heimer and me into a break of 6 riders including Thomas Brown from Astellas Cycling.  That group of 6 was solid, but I knew that I couldn’t maintain their pace since I was taking to corners a lot slower.  I went to the back and sort of quit sprinting back on after about 22 minutes.  I thought that the remaining group of 5 would stay together, so it didn’t occur to me to gut out a few more laps waiting for a couple others to drop with me.  Two other riders dropped about 1 minute after me, so I could have ridden with them had I just held on a little longer.  Sometimes when the moto is right behind me, and I know I’m going to drop within the next couple of minutes, I forget that there will likely be some others to join me if I just gut out a few more turns.  I’ll remember that for next time because at the time, it seemed like only I was struggling in that group of 6.

The rest of the rest was a fun TT training ride for me.  I got to ride an open course in the rain and go through turns with marshals holding back traffic.  As long as I’m not going to screw up the break, that’s a fun thing for me to ride solo.  I was able to download my race file to my WKO+, but the new Garmin driver on my wife’s computer corrupted and screwed up the download to Strava.  So, I lost the ability to compare lap times and stuff like that without manually marking my WKO+ which I’m not that interested in doing.  I thought that my power would be solid with high normalized power.  However, the braking and coasting for the 6 turns must have dropped the overall average.  I averaged 305 watts for 60 minutes and had an NP of 328 watts.  That was very close to the prior days race which was actually much easier on partially dry pavement with only 4 corners instead of 6 corners.  The two additional corners were tight and slow, so it was apples to oranges when looking at power.  I’d say those two corners would drop the average at least 10 – 20 watts because that section required braking for tight right turn downhill, braking for tight left turn, and then acceleration.  However, there was almost no pedaling since both turns were downhill.  Power was below 100 watts average for at least 15 seconds every lap in that section.  

I was cruising and having fun TT’ing the course in 6th place for about 30 minutes until I was caught with 5 to go.  I had about a 30 sec gap on the field and wasn’t slowing, but they all started working together, and I wasn’t looking back enough, so I got caught with 5 to go.  I was asking for splits up the road, but it didn’t occur to me to ask for splits in the back.  I lapped so many riders that I just assumed there were pockets of 2 and 3 riders that wouldn’t catch me.  I was surprised when a paceline of 9 guys showed up with 5 to go out of nowhere.  I ended up sprinting for 8th, so it wasn’t a great day.  6th wouldn’t have been any better, so no big deal either way.  On the bright side, I did get in two good days of intervals in a break of 5 on Saturday and a solo chase effort on Sunday.  Given that I had some good miles in my legs and no race fitness, I’m pleased that my back held up and was able to hold decent power.  I’m definitely about 10% below last year’s power at this time, but I have three weekends until Georgia Cycling Gran Prix to get it back.  If I can just get back 5% or 15 watts on my FTP, I’ll be fine.  Last year, my FTP was around 350 watts, and right now it is closer to 325 watts, so not quite 10% and closer to 8% rounded up.  Either way, that’s a lot of missing watts when you are riding in a break.  The other big factor is that I raced around this weight last year, but I can easily drop a couple pounds if I just focus a little more.  So, target for GCGP start day is weight down to 167lbs and FTP up to at least 330 – 335 watts.   That looks easy and realistic, but things never go as planned in cycling…..we’ll see.

 

Prior to updating the blog with today’s post, I reread my last post.  It was April 30th, and I had just completing or close to completing Speedweek.  I was struggling with back pain at that time, but that was more to do with the intense crits at warp speed lasting 90 minutes.  My back was in better shape then, but that effort will leave soreness regardless.  I was planning to add some short and intense intervals similar to my training, but it never happened.  I took some good fitness into a few hard and long training rides on Tucker (Sat) and Tues Night Crit (Tues) which probably helped lead to getting sick.  My doctor wasn’t sure if nasal and ear infections would be tied to fatigue in training, but it is an interesting coincidence that I was peaking right when I got sick.

So, the hard and intense intervals were never started, and I piled 2 weeks of antibiotics instead.  Now that we are almost in July, it leaves an interesting decision on where to focus training.  One school of thought to focus on those harder intervals while the other thought is focused on adding a little more fitness.  So, I’ll try and split the difference.  I’m racing two crits this weekend which means less duration and fitness building in favor of harder and shorter efforts.  The surges in the crits creates exactly the training my body needs to get back into shape.   In last night’s crit, I had the fitness, but my 1 min – 5 min power was really low.  Ty Magner and Oscar Clark rode me off their wheels.  This isn’t surprising and would happen if I was in top shape, but if I was in top shape, I would have been able to get closer during my bridge effort and lasted several minutes longer prior to exploding.  Last night, I can see my 1 min and 5 min power down about 10 – 15% even though I came in decently rested.  With the Georgia Cycling Gran Prix coming in less than a month, I need to add 1 day a week of 1 minute and 3 minute intervals to regain at least 5% of that power without adding too much fatigue for racing.  I’m hoping to fit these into shorter 60 minute Thursday night training rides and then cruise around easy on the back of the Chastain Group Ride.   I’ll combine that with Saturday Tucker, Sunday Silver Comet Tempo, and Tuesday Night Crit + Kennesaw Repeats.

So, again, that’s the plan, we’ll see if I can follow the plan better this time and avoid injury / illness.  Step 1 is race #2 of Dingo Days Criterium tonight at 6:20pm in Flowery Branch.  Since Ty and Oscar are not racing tonight, it should a little different race.  Normally when they show up, it’s easy because they drop everyone, lap the field, and then ride tempo for the field.  Last night, the race started hard with attacks and counter attacks.  I was hoping to avoid going with any early attacks and await Ty and Oscar’s attack.  However, Ty or Oscar took turns going with each early move from the gun.  The first attack on lap 1 had Novo Nordisk attack out of turn 3 with Oscar alone for the ride.  I sprinted up to the move and it was brought back easily about a half lap later.  Immediately, Novo counter attacked and again it was either Ty or Oscar that was in the break of four.  I didn’t want to go again so early, but they started to roll fast.  I sprinted up to this move and noticed the field wasn’t chasing due to the representation.  Novo had two riders, Hincapie had one, Litespeed-BMW had one, and then there were two others.  This move was eventually brought back too.  This went on over and over for about the first 5 laps.  Each time, there was representation from either Ty or Oscar.  Finally, one of the moves got away.  It probably only took about a lap before both Ty and Oscar were off the front.  I chased hard for a half lap and then gave up.  Remind me never to do that.  If I’m in top shape then I have a 1 in 10 chance of bridging that move, but I knew coming in that my numbers were down 10 – 15% in 1 min and 5 min power, so it was stupid to even try.  People say you can’t race with numbers, but if you consistently are putting out numbers that are much lower than normal, it’s a good indication that any move which is normally hard for you will be nearly impossible to sustain the power required.  Again, you don’t need to be held captive by your power numbers, but you don’t want to be stupid either.  I often see guys with what I know is low power putting crazy hard chases while I’m picturing the story told in every elementary school about Don Quixote.  Maybe that is only California schools where I grew-up….  In any event, it was about a man who was a dreamer and couldn’t face reality.  If you put out 4.5w/kg and think you are going to chase down someone who puts out 5.5w/kg, you’re dreaming.  Even on a good day for you and a bad day for them, you’re dreaming.  Cycling isn’t all about power, but it is about power and w/kg for given durations under certain conditions.  There are a lot of variables, but every racer needs to be able to process those variables quickly and determine if they have a chance to stick the move or bring back the move.  Yesterday, I didn’t process that information on my most current fitness and power levels, so it was a move in futility.  Fast forward, I floated by to a chase group of six consisting of 3 Novo Nordisk, 1 Ridley, 1 DIY, and me.  With 8 – 10 to go, the Ridley guy crashed in turn 1.  I got caught behind the crash and skidded into the curb while the DIY and a Novo guy rode away.  I didn’t go down technically even though I softly hit head on into the curb causing me to unclip.  I checked my bike  and quickly sprinted after the two up the road.  I chased for about 1.5 laps before I latched back on exhausted.  I was thinking that it would stay that way and decide 3rd place until Ty and Oscar towed the lapped field back up to us about two laps later.  Then, they went hard off the front again.  With 5 to go, there was another group of about 8 riders.  I had a teammate attack with 4 to go, but he was pulled back quickly, and then there was a split as the riders pulled in behind the two caught riders.  I realized a little late that they were getting dropped, so I hate to sprint across about 50m to catch back on with 3 to go.  It got fast with 3, 2, and then at 1 to go it was very fast.  With 1 to go heading into turn 1, it was still slick and the crash was fresh in my mind.  I was running about 105psi on new tires, and I felt unsure in the turn with painted lines.  Two Novo riders came up on my side and tried to go two wide through the turn with me.  I didn’t chance anything and told them to take it easy while I braked and floated a couple riders back.  Going into turn 3 it was Oscar, Ty, DIY, and two Novo riders I let by me.  Then, heading into turn 4 the Novo rider attacked.  Ty and Oscar went off the front with Oscar leading out Ty and then sitting up.  I chased from turn 3 and got passed as I essentially led out Novo rider.  He took 3rd, and I got 4th.  I did way too much work prior to turn 4 to have any legs left to win a pack sprint.  Couple that with allowing two riders in turn 1, and my fate for 4th was sealed way before the actual sprint.  It is like I tell young riders, don’t talk about how you did in the sprint, tell me what you did in the last 3k leading up to the out of the saddle sprint.  The best sprinters are typically out of the saddle sprinting up the side further toward the front four or five times heading into the final sprint for the line effort.  That is often their fourth or fifth sprint, not their first sprint.  So, focus on developing the ability to sprint several times in a row and recover rather than being super efficient tucked into the draft perfectly placed to get boxed in.  The best sprinters are sometimes to the men with nerves of steel, but often they are the racers with the best recoverability and strength to sprint over and over with 1k to go.

I’m not sure if that title is accurate for this post, but I wanted to provide insight into a few challenges I see with aging and racing.  I focus entirely on Pro/1/2 races and dabble in the Pro/1 NCC criteriums during Speed Week and sometimes a few other races on the calendar.  When racing regional Pro/1/2 races, the speed and attacks are strong, but nothing like the intensity of a large Pro field of dedicated Pro/1 riders who focus 100% on racing.  For me, the road races are not that difficult because they are hitting the endurance and aerobic areas of fitness where I spend the majority of my training.  If we are drilling it for 100 miles at 90%, I am in much less pain than the first 20 minutes of a tight or rainy crit where it is essentially 20 minutes straight of 5 – 10 sec all out / 5 – 10 sec rest.  Since I don’t like Tabata efforts due to the fact that they leave my legs and back fatigued for multiple days, I have a huge gap in repeatability.  If I had a huge base, I’d spend a couple weeks before the season focused on this top end training.  However, I’m typically still building in March and can’t realistically do 1 or 2 days of intense intervals without losing a ton of base fitness due to the recovery time.  If I do efforts like those in training, I may not be able to go hard again for up to three days.  This is where the difference between a young pro and an older masters racer really start to diverge.  I get frustrated when I hear masters racers say that they can’t ride fast because they are getting older.  It’s true, but the blanket statement isn’t correct.  It has more to do with picking and choosing your training to minimize long periods of soreness so you can maintain a high level of fitness.  If an older athlete attempts to build a lot of any single type of fitness (i.e. zone 5, zone 6, or zone 7), they leave themselves open to prolonged soreness that will erode their base fitness.  If you work full time with a family, it is very unlikely that you can regain the lost base fitness, so the cost / benefit of doing short intense workouts is minimized.

 

Part of me can accept the above statement, but part of me cannot accept that statement.  So, I’m planning to play with different types of intervals over the next few months to see which ones can build this repeatability while minimizing fatigue.  By definition, you need hard efforts to create training adaptations, so this isn’t completely logical.  However, I’m going to be pursuing the best workout that adds repeatability while minimizing fatigue.  I’m thinking of it as a sort of “anaerobic sweet spot” interval.  I also think that it will require a combination workout where some base fitness and FTP can be maintained while also working the anaerobic engine.  What I haven’t figured out is what it will look like in practice.  Next week I’ll head out and try some tabatas 8 x 10 sec all out / 20 sec off for 2 sets and then attempt to do an SST ride.  I’m sure that like anything in training, I will need to start slow and build up.  If the old saying of “no more than 10% increase in training per week” holds true, this all may just come down to starting intense intervals prior to rides at an almost embarrassingly short duration and slowly build up over time.  So, maybe it’s as simple as doing a quick tabata before every training session for two weeks, then adding a second set after two weeks, a third set after a month, etc….   We’ll see, but I’m icing my back as I type this post, so whatever I decide, I hope it fixes these soreness and fatigue issues so I can improve my repeatability while decreasing this pain.

Athens Twilight Greenway – Cat 1/2 Race

This weekend marked the start of Speed Week in the Southeast.  I raced with the team on Saturday, and the team was incredible throughout the race.  They covered a ton of moves and allowed me to sit in looking for breaks.  I got in one decent break, but the field wouldn’t allow it to get away.  With two to go, we lined up a leadout train and did a good job of controlling the final two laps.  Hot Tubes countered with their own train which started to pull in front of the train I was leading for my teammate.  I probably should have dug deeper, but I decided that our two rider train would be better off tucking along the side draft of their leadout.  After we turned the last corner, we were positioned well for the sprint, but a rider I’ve never seen before took off up the side.  I quickly jumped after his wheel and was closing fast.  I think I may have eased up a bit to pace myself and allow the pass without blowing up which ended up resulting in me not passing and actually getting passed.  We did a bike through and were all separated by a few inches across the road.  It was a decent result and first podium of the year, but Roswell undid all that happiness.

Roswell Criterium – Pro/1 Race

It started pouring rain and quickly reminded me of my terrible confidence in the rain.  I brake a little harder than everyone else in the rain, but not too bad.  After 12 minutes, my day was over.  I was frustrated and swore off rainy crits.  Then, I went home and did some analysis.  Thanks to Strava, I can see that my power was a lot lower than the guys in the break.  Even if I rode more smoothly, I wasn’t going to be able to make the break with my current power.  The main issue is my 5 minute power which used to be extremely high and has slowly fallen every year since 2012.  How is that possible?  I went back and looked at the highest 5 min power files from 2012, and I noticed they were efforts when I was trying to get a couple hill climb KOM segments.  The process of trying “all out” efforts over the course of a few months boosted my 5 min power to levels almost 40 watts than my recent peak 5 minute efforts.  I’m sure I can do more than I’m currently doing, but let’s assume it’s a good 20 watts lower.  That 20 watts is the difference I need to ride faster at the beginning of a rainy crit when the strategy is drill it for the first 10 minutes then settle in.  

 

Next Training Plan:  More Strava…not a lot more, just the occasional focus once a week would help.

 

2014 Race Season Is Here

Despite the countless posts on Facebook telling everyone that we should be riding “winter pace” right now, this weekend marked the 2nd weekend of the race season in the Southeast.  Last weekend, the Greenville Spring Series kicked off with some great riders, and I was not surprised to see Winston David take his first win.  He is a massive talent for Lupus cycling, and he has put in a ton of work this winter.  I know he has worked hard over the winter because I follow him on Strava and shake my head everyday I’m not riding, and I see that he has completed a 100 mile ride already that day.   With the wife starting her own law firm, kids catching multiple colds, and my work travel picking up, it has been a struggle to get quality training this winter.  When you add in the bad weather, it was even harder.  Luckily, Brendan Sullivan, Andy Lougher, Kirk Corsello, and John Atkins were crushing the Airport Ride every Sunday, so I was able to get in some hard sustained efforts at least once a weekend.  I started to add in the occasional Six Flags ride on Saturday morning when it was too cold to ride alone, and it allowed me to create just enough fitness where I’m only about 10% – 15% below last winter.  If I can stay healthy, I can make up some of that difference in March assuming the weather isn’t terrible.

The theme for last year’s posts were basically centered on one topic, weight loss.  Unfortunately, I never motivated enough to lose the weight that was required to take my season to the next level.  I knew that my legs were strong enough to get me through the rolling hills, so I would only get massively penalized on a few courses.   I guess that’s one way of looking at it, but if you are serious about cycling, carrying around 10 – 15lbs of extra weight over and above your prior season weight is not smart.  So, the question is whether I’ll motivate to lose the weight this season.  It’s interesting to watch me try to lose weight.  If I am riding a lot with a ton of repeatable structure such as same breakfast/lunch/dinner, no illness, wife’s healthy too, kids healthy, work stress is at normal levels, etc….then I can lose weight.  Sometimes, I’ll put together a week or two weeks where I can feel that I’m headed for success.  Then, something happens like business travel, sick child, wife sick, etc…whatever the case, life happens, and I turn to food to deal with it.  We’re not talking about turning to food like the TV show “Biggest Loser” or anything like that.  It’s just that I can’t lose the weight and quickly gain back whatever was previously dropped.  So, it is a “mental” issue and a level of focus that I lack in most cases.  That’s an excuse, I know, but trying to be honest about it.  I raced well in 2012 between 162lbs – 164lbs, but I’m sitting at 173lbs right now.  I raced most of last year between 171lbs – 176lbs, so I should be able to get down to 166lbs – 168lbs without too much effort by April.  Once I get there, it’s easier to have a dedicated focus prior to a hilly race in two weeks or whatever immediate goal is ahead.  When you’re over 10lbs from your target, it’s too easy to give up.  I think a natural race weight target should be 165lbs which allows me to easily drop down to 162lbs for a climbing race or slip a little up to 168lbs during heavy crit periods.  Let’s be honest, after not racing more than a couple races in the 167-168lbs range last year, I’d happily accept that all season over last season’s weight.

On the bright side of last season, my 60 minute power was much higher.  My 20 minute power did not improve between 2012 and 2013.  It hovered in the 365 – 370 watts range during peak early season testing, but my 60 minute improved dramatically with a peak around 340 watts.  In the past, I struggled to hold anything longer than 20 minutes and really couldn’t deliver 2×20 minute intervals without massive power drop-offs on the 2nd interval.   The issue was due to bad execution in training.  I was so focused on the first interval hitting some target number for 20 minutes that I failed to have enough left over for the 2nd interval.  Once I pushed my ego out of the way, I was able to dial back the 20 minute targets to levels that were not impressive, however, they allowed for the completion of two full intervals without any decrease on the 2nd interval.  The numbers were not good at first, but over time my body was able to push harder and longer with slow incremental power increases on the 2nd interval.  It was the classic case of pacing and by going easy at first, I was able to go harder in the end.  In this case, it meant that I needed several weeks of targeting numbers that were too easy until I could consistently hit them and repeat them in multiple intervals.  The key to intervals isn’t how hard you can do them, the key is how many you can do at what level of effort.  I learned that it’s better for a rider to hit numbers 10% below their peak ability for several weeks and focus on completing 2 and 3 intervals in row.

The plan is to either get in another good training weekend next weekend or possible head up to Greenville on Saturday for Fork Shoals Road Race.   Now, I haven’t done a single interval yet this season, so if I had any brains at all, I’d take my own advice and start training before I drive off to these races….but, I’m not that smart, so we’ll see.

I’m not planning to write a lot over winter.  My goals for 2014 are still being reviewed, and I have been swamped with work which makes cycling a low priority right now in December.  However, I know that I need to get closer to my 2012 weight to get to the next level in 2014.  I have allowed my CTL to drop lower this winter which hasn’t helped the weight issue either.  With lower CTL also comes lower FT which I felt during a family trip to Naples, FL last week.  I was able to ride several days with the great riders at Naples Velo.  All I can say is they are fast!  If I was in midseason form, it would have felt easy, but my low CTL combined with winter paced training left me hurting on a few rides.  I had no speed and no sprint which is fine in ATL in December, but not good in Naples.  The family was with me, so my rides were pretty short all week.  With the wife opening her new law firm, Gearhart Law Group, she was busy a lot, as well.  Her firm is focused on helping injured workers, so check them out if you get injured at work.  Otherwise, have fun this winter and stay safe on the roads.

This weekend simultaneously marked the end of my road season while kicking-off my cyclocross season.  It is a bitter sweet end to the road season as my legs have finally come around with my CTL settling into a nice all time high point while maintaining a fresh positive TSB.  

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The field was stacked with a full squad from Hincapie Development including Ty Magner, Oscar Clark, Joe Lewis, and Joey Rosskopf.   In total, they had over 8 riders who each can impact or win a race.  Then, you add in several other large squads such as Stans No Tubes, Global Bike, and a lot of solid Pro riders mixed into the fray as individuals or pairs of teammates.  The course consisted of a 4 mile out and 4 mile back with 8 x 8 mile laps with about 1,000 feet of climbing per lap.  The pace on lap 1 was very fast.  I have to admit that I have been spending a bit of time getting acquainted with my new Litespeed CX bike, so I haven’t ridden any hills since River Gorge last month.  I felt good enough to go harder on lap 1 and attempt to get in the early break, but I was concerned that type of move would put me in the red and potentially result in getting caught or blowing up.  I was very glad that I didn’t hung back in the chase group as we quickly caught riders who tried to make the break and were shed at some point.  That would have been me, and it would have left me very fatigued with no benefit to my overall race position.  As we were racing, I assumed the Hincapie team would create the break by force and anyone in the pack would get put into race of attrition mode.  After the first 2 laps, we settled into a decent tempo with the occasional full speed 5 min efforts where the field was lined out, but for the most part, it was lap after lap, shedding riders slowly off the back every time we hit the midway up the KOM climb.  On the last lap, the pack was still pretty large with about 40 of the original 75 riders still in the main field.  It was clear that it was likely going to break apart into several large groups for a field sprint of several groups separated by very few seconds.  I crested the KOM around 10th wheel and desceded the hill pretty quick with the other riders.  It got scary as attacks and counter attacks went up the road and riders swarmed the narrow road from the back while trying to ride up the yellow line and far right side pavement shoulder / gravel combination.  With about 2 miles to go, riders finally attacked hard enough to line out the pack which allowed several open lines to move up.  After we hit 1k to go, there was a slight lull in the field, but the road wasn’t open until around 200m, so nobody could move at all.  There was no 500m sign that I could see, but we could see the finish line barriers.  In hindsight, I’m not sure what would have been a better move since there were few holes behind the first row of four riders.  I was sitting about 5th wheel and noticed Oleg take a flier, so I jumped his wheel.  He started to slow, so I went left around him at around 100m and threw my wheel just past Winston David for 4th in the field sprint and 14th overall.  2 riders snuck off the front somewhere, so we were sprinting for 9th or 10th place, I think.  It wasn’t a great result, but when you figure I had no chance to make the break of 9 guys given my inability to ride hills that fast, it was probably as good as can be expected for a heavier rider doing 6,500 ft elevation in 70 miles of racing.  The numbers were not that impressive for the day since it was all up and down with some rolling areas.  NP was decent, but it wasn’t anywhere near a peak.  The hardest part of the race was the first part of lap 1 when I recorded 416 watts for peak 5 minutes.  My personal best 5 minutes is 445 watts, so this was hard, but I wasn’t killing myself either.  It’s important to remember that peaks are peaks for a reason, and they are hard to achieve without a few minutes of rest afterwards.  If you are planning to go hard enough to get a peak 5 min or peak 20 min and then continue racing for the next 3 hours afterwards while doing another 6k ft of climbing, it may not be a good idea to go after the breakaway if it means hitting your peak.  That was my scenario as I probably had enough power to reach or stick the break, but not enough to stay in the break, so I chose to dial it back and do lap 1 well within my ability which meant I had plenty of sprint left after 70 miles and 6k ft of climbing.  Since I only had a few seconds coming off Oleg’s wheel in the wind, my sprint was limited to 3 seconds, but it was around 1,312 watts, so mission accomplished on conserving my efforts.  With the road season over, I’ll write a subsequent blog post on lessons learned and observations from this season.  Off the top of my head, I can easily see a few things bubbling to the top that are obvious.  First, my weight was too high all season.  I raced Sunday at 173lbs which was 11lbs above my low last season.  I planned to race at 160lbs this year, but I didn’t have the dedication to do it.  My results were just good enough most of the season that I never forced myself to diet really strictly and cut calories below 2k which is required to drop weight.  I’m not sure if I’ll have that drive next year, but if I want to drop the weight, I now realize it has to be in the spring before the hard racing.  When I’m racing long races, I can’t diet and recover.  Another learning is that I now have enough FTP to race well, and I need more repeatability and high end race fitness earlier in the year.  It was interesting how I got stronger when I added a few punchy group rides into my Thursday night training and chased a few Strava segments for fun.  Doing several 100% efforts for 30 seconds chasing a Strava KOM was actually helpful to my fitness.  In a perfect world, I’d do hard intervals, but I hate them so much.  If there are a few segments on a group ride that require 100% effort to get going, so be it.  I also realize that I need to work in Tucker Saturdays with 86 mile to/from efforts earlier into my spring.  I need 4 straight weeks of these Saturdays to built CTL.  Then, I need to add in one multi-day stage race to bump CTL way up.  I normally race in the low 90’s, but this season, I hit a CTL of 110 after the 6th race in 5 days at the Georgia Cycling Gran Prix.  I didn’t maintain that level, but it is so easy to maintain a high CTL in the high 90’s after you get bumped above 100 for a few days.  If it looked like I was stronger end of season, it was because I was starting races with a positive TSB and a CTL at 100 versus post injury races in March / April with a slightly negative TSB and a CTL of mid 80’s.  I’m not a math expert, but a 25% increase in CTL coupled with a move from negative to positive TSB will make any rider much better.  If I can stay injury free in the spring next year, then I’ll hopefully get to the 90’s before late summer and stay there all season with long Tucker Saturdays.

Now, I turn my attention to cyclocross where none of my road fitness seems to help me at all.  I need to quickly build muscles that I have been ignoring all season.  I need to develop off road skills that I don’t possess.  I need to go hard for 1 hour instead of pacing myself for 4 hours.  Let the fun begin….first race this Saturday in Chattanooga.

Blog – Some 2013 Insights

The season isn’t over yet, and I have one more criterium and road race this weekend in Greenville, SC before I hang up the road bike and switch to the cross bike.  However, I quickly scanned some posts from June and noticed the fatigue issues that bothered me back in June.  I think the biggest difference between then and now (recovering quickly) is the introduction (or reintroduction) of punchy group rides.  I focus on a lot of SST / FTP type efforts in the early Spring to raise FTP.  Once you go down that path, it is very painful and uncomfortable to add in intensity.  I added in intensity via Tuesday Night Crit, but it isn’t the same type of intensity that you find on a Strava segment where you go 100% for 1 min, recovery for 5 min at fast tempo and do it again.  The Tuesday Night Crit has attacks and counter attacks,  but they are short 5 – 10 sec efforts followed by hard 5 – 10 min efforts off the front.  It is working more VO2 and FTP.  The other major difference was the lack of Tucker rides prior to June this season.  There was a lot of rain this year, and I also had a lot of Saturday’s booked with racing, so I didn’t get a stretch of Tucker rides until late June.  I find that 4 weekends in a row of 86 miles to/from Tucker with hard efforts off the front plus a few hard midweek / Strava chasing group rides can be a nice ying/yang with hard / long mixed with short / hard.  That combination (long Tucker and shorter intown) is a nice mix if I’ve already built up FTP in January – March.  So, hopefully Mother Nature and maybe a little less March racing will get me in better shape faster next season.

Next Up: Greenville SRS Championship Finale Race Weekend September 14th and 15th.  Then, it’s on to September 28th Rocky Face, GA for Georgia Cyclocross race #1.  It never ends around here….

Last Saturday marked one of the last races of the season, and it was also one of the hardest road races on the calendar.   About 80 Pro/1/2 riders lined up for the start of the River Gorge Road Race in Chattanooga, TN.  The start list was strong with a strong representation from top riders such as Michael Olheiser (CashCall Mortgage), Wintston David (United Healthcare 706 Project), Shawn Gravois (United Healthcare 706), Jonathan Jacob (Bissell-ABG Giant), Stephen Bassett (Texas Roadhouse), and many other top riders.

We wanted to have a mix of riders up the road and riders in the field so we could ensure representation in the final climbs.  We started the race off with a flurry of hard attacks.  My Litespeed-BMW teammates, Hank Beaver and Tim Henry, were lighting up the front with hard sprints and counter attacks that were even harder.  Hank crushed a few massive sprints and almost got away.  Just as he was caught, Tim countered and made it off the front in a 2 man break with a rider from Max Bendorf.  As one of the riders tagged to get up the road, I attacked the pack around mile 8 at the first climb.  I crested with a few other riders and then attacked up the left side just off Olheisers shoulder right inside the yellow line.  There was an immediate response from Olheiser and a few others.  Mike came to the front and nobody would pull through.  There were a bunch of guys yelling at their teammates “Don’t work, he’s a pro, don’t work, he’s a pro.”  I thought that was a little silly since the guy was all alone and everyone knew he’s a strong pro, but I’m not sure you need to call it out like that so loudly.  In any event, I could see that he realized the entire pack was focused on him which meant that he wouldn’t try to get in a break right at that moment.  I attacked again on the next small climb, and he let me go this time.  I was followed by Brendan Sullivan (Lupus) and a United Healthcare p/b 706 rider who I assume was Ryan Sullivan.   Brendan came to the front immediately and then we all started rotating up the road.  We were gone quickly and left the pack within seconds of our attack.  More importantly, they let us go and focused on Olheiser as we rode away from them over some steep rollers.  After about 5 miles we reached my Litespeed-BMW teammate, Tim Henry, who was already up the road.  I realized that most of the guys who were on the front when I got away were not the same guys who were on the front when Tim got away, and I was confident that nobody realized there were now 2 Litespeed-BMW teammates together in a break of 5 riders now.  This quickly becoming a nice race strategy, but we were still only about 12 miles into a hilly 60 mile race with several steep climbs ahead including a very steep 2.5 mile climb at mile 28.  We rotated as a 5 man breakaway and built up at least a minute gap over the field by ~ mile 18-ish when suddenly another Litespeed-BMW teammate, Chris Brown, arrived via a bridge move that included Jonathan Jacobs from Bissell.  Now, we are around 18 – 20 miles into a 60 mile race with about a 90 second gap and 3 Litespeed-BMW teammates in a breakaway of 7 riders.  I have to admit that it was probably at this point that I lost my head a bit and focused entirely on driving the gap wider.  I’m not sure that was the best strategy, but all I could think about was extending a gap that I thought was hovering at 1 min.  In reality, it was likely 2 minutes and growing.  The 4 non-teammates decided that we were too dangerous with 3 out of 7 riders, so they sat on the back and forced the 3 of us to form a team time trial rotation in front of them.  I tried to gap them off a few times for not helping, and that prompted a few rotations of participation from a few riders, but I should have done that several times to create more teamwork.  They needed us to keep it going and should have contributed to the rotation by at least pulling through.  On the other hand, both 706 and Lupus had strong climbers in the field, so they could argue that they didn’t need to work.  However, if you keep that line of thinking, we had our protected climber in the field, as well.  So, I’m not sure how all that plays out, and we didn’t bother to discuss this with them anyway, so it doesn’t matter.  I think my teammates were thinking along the same lines as me in terms of extending the gap, so we started drilling it a bit on a few climbs which opened up small gaps as the other riders in the break either realized how much climbing was ahead or just didn’t want to allow us to dictate a hard pace up the climbs.  If we fast forward ahead to Sand Mountain, we reached the tough climb with close to a 3 minute gap.  We thought that the field was chasing and only 1 minute back, but I now realize they were likely almost 3 minutes back at this point and not chasing at all.  The officials didn’t give us a time split, so I was flying blind and assumed it was a 1 minute gap to the field.  The goal was to get over the climb ahead of the field and join the front chase group on the descent of the climb.  I knew that I was 10lbs heavier than last year and also had just spent 1 hour helping to drive a fast breakaway that built a nice gap, so my gut was telling me that there was going to be a good chance that the front of the field would catch me at the top of the climb.  I decided to push it was hard as I could climb and see what happens.  Now, if we stop and analyze what would have been ideal, that would have been a slow tempo climb to allow me to recover and save my already tired legs given the massive gap.  I didn’t have a time split, so I rode the hill with a lot of the reserves left at this point.  Unfortunately, I did not eat enough (or at all?) in the break during the prior hour, so I created a bad situation going into a tough climb.  I did drink both of my bottles, but that isn’t enough calories at the front of an hour breakaway which probably burned around 1,000 calories alone.  I think 2 bottles may have given me 200 calories since I decided not to make it too strong that day.  As we started the climb, our break split into two groups.  The front group of Brendan Sullivan, Chris Brown, Ryan Sullivan (I think), and Jonathan Jacob went ahead.  I latched on the back, but I was focused on riding a slightly slower pace.  I tried to keep them within about 20 yards for the first 1k, about 40 yards in the next 1k, etc…for 4k.  By the top, they were out of sight and about 45 seconds ahead of me.  I was riding about 30 watts below my 10 min peak on a 12 – 13 min climb, so I wasn’t going too hard, but given that I was in a breakaway the prior hour, it was pretty hard.  I crested the mountain, grabbed two bottles from Tim’s dad, and then started waiting for the others from the break.  He’s the deal….why ride ahead of the others at a faster pace only to sit up and wait for them while alone at the top?  What was I doing?   My thought process was that a minute gap required me to ride at a certain pace that was harder to crest with the leaders in the chase group likely coming up behind us from the field.  In reality, I waited for about 10 – 15 seconds, then I soft pedaled for another 30 seconds before I could see anyone cresting.  Finally, I saw a group of four way behind me at this point.  I continued to soft pedal, and they reached me a couple minutes later.  At this point, I was reunited with my teammate and breakmate Tim Henry plus a friend from Alabama named Brian Toone.  There were two other riders with them.  Even though I was soft pedaling, I suddenly realized that I was bonking.  I quickly got on the back of their group and started to eat instead of rotating.  I told Brian that I’d start pulling as soon as I could eat some food.  I always feel more comfortable eating on the back when I’m with guys who know I’m not playing games and legitimately need to eat.  When I was done, I came to the front to pull as we started our descent.  As soon as I pulled off, Mike Olheiser (CashCall Mortgage) flew, and I mean flew, by me at about 50mph.  We were probably going 40mph, and he came by at 50mph about a few inches to my left on the descent.  I didn’t see or expect him, so I’m glad I didn’t do anything stupid as I pulled off.  Then, it was on, and the descent was suddenly a swarm of fast climbers who were rested and recovered and ready to race the final 30 miles of River Gorge.  With about half the race left, I could feel that I was still tired, but I was recovered (I thought) and ready to follow along.  I sat in the draft of the next 17 miles until we hit some stair steps.  I came to the front to help cover moves, and I immediately felt very little energy.  As soon as Mike Stone and Olheiser attacked the front group of now 15 riders, my legs locked up for the first time all day.  It was at that time that I realized one of my best races was going to quickly disintegrate into something terrible if I didn’t conserve immediately.  I tried to stay to the front with my teammates, but more cramping followed.  I didn’t try to survive, just stayed there a few more minutes and faded off the back.  I did my job well, but I also rode too aggressively and was paying the price.  I don’t have the time to hit the gaps on long training days due to work/life, so my longest climb is 550 feet at Kennesaw Mountain at 1.2 miles in length.  The 2.5+ mile Sand Mountain at the end of a 1hr break filled with climbs was just too much climbing for me, and my legs were now making me pay the price.  I came off and soft pedaled with a teammate in a similar situation.  We soft pedaled for about 3 minutes recovering before we saw the next chase group of 15 – 20 riders who had no idea how far back they were from the lead chase group which contained most of the top 5 riders in the end.  They were going pretty hard, so we let them and another group of stragglers go ahead.   That was essentially the end of the race for us.  It was my first race riding in a break ahead of one of the most crucial sections in a lead break or chase in 5th position only to end up near last.  The casual race fan doesn’t understand that this is all part of racing as a team and the reason why riders go off in breaks only to get caught and finish near last as the pack swarms them.   However, they have a rested teammate who didn’t have to chase the entire race as a result of their effort, so it is more important than sometimes apparent.

The race finished well for Litespeed-BMW.  My teammate who made it over the climb from our original 7 man break, Chris Brown, was caught in the final section of the finishing climb to get 12th and our best climber, Anders Swanson, finished a very strong 7th place.  When we get top results like that, it makes all the hard work and sometimes bad personal finishes all worthwhile!

Next up is a little time on my new Litespeed cyclocross bike to get used to dirt again while continuing road training with a final race on the calendar in Greenville, SC on Sept. 14th and 15th at the SRS Southeast Region Championship Series crit/road race.  Then, the first cyclocross race is two weeks later in Dalton, GA…..  No rest for the working and racing man…..

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In my day job, we constantly speak to our clients about capturing their baseline/current state metrics and then tracking their improvements or “lift” after they implement our software solutions.  Selling software which captures and tracks sales, customer service, and marketing activities helps me get into this “measurement” mindset, and I try to apply those same concepts to cycling training.  Without a doubt, everything I know and have learned is based on Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen’s booked Training and Racing with a Power Meter.  If you train with power, and you should, then this book is the equivalent of the bible for power training.  

 
I spent some time last week reviewing a few old blog posts from 2008-2009, and I was surprised to read my posts with old baseline and target metrics.  For example, in 2008, I was estimating my FTP at 300 watts, and I was targeting 330 watts for 2009.  In reality, I now realize that my FTP was closer to 285 watts in 2008, and maybe it was 300 watts in 2009.  Based on my peak 60 minute power numbers, it was nowhere near my estimates at the time which explained a lot of the challenges I faced when I first started doing 2×20 minute intervals.  At first, I could never hold my power for the full 20 minutes mainly because I had overestimated my FTP in the first place.  In very punching group rides, I could generate a NP above 300, so I made some incorrect assumptions which made some of my expectations and measurement improvements somewhat skewed.  I was improving faster on 1 min, 5 min, and 10 min power than I was in the 20 min and 60 min power mainly due to a training plan that consisted of mainly intown group rides which have zero hard efforts longer than 5 min.  If we fast forward to 2013, I now see the difference between peak numbers and consistently achieved numbers.  In 2012, I achieved peak numbers that have not been repeated this season in 5 minute power.  However, most of my 5 min peak power numbers achieved last year were not at that peak outlier level.  This season, I have not exceeded peaks in anything except 60 minute power, but my typical 5 min power is about 7 watts higher than a typical 5 min power on a typical ride last season.   So, it highlights that I’m now chasing an 1 – 2% improvements as realistic goals.  On the flip side, when I first started training in 2008, I would see 10 – 15% annual gains, but over time that shrinks to 1% as you get closer to your ultimate potential.  Since I was fat and reduced weight from 195lbs in 2008 to 162lbs in 2013, there was a second factor driving w/kg improvements.  Now, my weight has moved back into high 160’s and power is increasing slowly at .5% to 1% annually.  On the bright side, I don’t need a lot of wattage improvements anymore, and I can instead focus on repeatability.  I can now go hard, get in a break, get caught, go again in the counter move, get caught, recover in the pack for 60 seconds, and then then go hard again with the final move that likely sticks.  It is far more important for me to have this repeatability than a few more absolute watts or a little less weight (higher w/kg).  Unfortunately, road races with big climbs like this Saturday’s River Gorge road race are one of the few races where it’s all about higher w/kg, and my repeatability is less important than the fact that I’m heavier this year.  As a result, I’m realistic about the challenges associated with a few races on the calendar where I’m just not built for strong results.  
 
Net/net, it’s important to capture your baseline every year, create achievable targets, and then measure success every month or every year.  Racing is much more than measuring power, but the combination of power, w/kg, and repeatability will give a rider a clear blueprint for their likely success or challenges in a variety of races.