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This is day 3 or day 4 of the sore back. While the piriformis (I’ve been misspelling it for weeks) is tight on every ride, the bigger issue is the lower back pain that happens around 1hr. I’m taking 3 days off and hoping to fix it again. This will further drop CTL, but it’s already so low that I don’t care anymore. I’d like to get healthy, so I’ll be trying to avoid any hard jumps in Sunday’s Georgia Games crit. Luckily, that is more of a circuit than a crit, so I’ll try to avoid crit type back tiring jumps.

I went back to reread my posts from last year to see if I had any back injuries. I didn’t have any, but I did the prior year in CX. At that time, I started doing the “Foundation” exercises by some Lance Armstrong core strength coach. I’m not a fan of Lance Armstrong, but those seemed to work well two years ago. They worked so well that I pulled a muscle in my chest at the beginning of last year due to some imbalance between the core and chest that I created by doing back inflections all winter. So, my goal now is to focus on back inflections, push-ups, plank, piriformis stretches, and a few quad stretches. Somehow, I’ll try to remember to ride my bike too…. As I keep saying in these posts, getting old doesn’t mean getting slower, it means more injury and an inability to recover which leads to getting slower. If you are religious about keeping a healthy core which I am not, then you will likely stay fast as you age. Some of us obviously only learn the hard way after multiple recurring issues. Someone please punch me in the head if they hear or see me preparing for CX in September. If anyone needs a true offseason this year, it is me!

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I’m vacationing right now, and I thought it would be a good time to get in some miles. My performis and back pain have resurfaced to the point where I can’t even ride hard. I came into this week with CTL lower than any midseason since I started racing, and now it’s dropping even lower. I have no ability to recover at these low levels. If I do a hard interval or race, I’m not able to train with any quality for two or three days. This season has been hard due to injury and illness, so I may hang up the CX bike this season. I enjoy CX, but the last thing my back needs is to spend the winter beating the crap out of myself off-road. I really need to take a few weeks off to fully recover / heal the back, and then start a good yoga / core training plan. I probably need some PT to make sure I come out of November healed up too. So, I’ll probably keep riding in pain a few more weeks, and then I’ll hang it up for the year.

This is my second post today, and I’m not that into blogging, but I need to document this thought for next year.  A lot of people think I blog to share with others what I have learned or experienced.  I’d say that is a small part of it.  I don’t know enough about cycling to think that my blog posts offer much to most riders.  However, these blog posts allow me to go back and read a year or two later what I was thinking, feeling, and doing (power / wattage) at certain times.  I was flying last year during the Georgia Cycling Gran Prix, but I’ll need to go back and read about what I was doing leading up to the race.  I know that I had a steady mix of long rides and shorter rides, but I can’t remember exactly what I was focused on, so I’ll read old posts soon.

This post is mainly focused on reminding myself something that I forgot until just now.  Last year I learned that I am much faster when I hit a certain CTL target.  My goal this year was to race at that level most of the year.  Until I got sick, I was sitting there pretty close to the target.  However, the key piece that I forgot from prior year’s “lessons learned” is that “how” you achieve your CTL is every bit as important as what you have for CTL.  Last year, I had a nice high CTL, but I was able to maintain it with some longer / easier rides that kept the CTL high and fatigue low.  This year, I had some setbacks and also some good days, but I went a little too hard on some of my good Tucker days and longer Tues Night Crit days.  As a result, I had the same CTL on fewer hours of riding.  The CTL value was the same, but it was probably done on 1hr less per week.  In the beginning, this was fine, but as the weeks progressed, it was tiring and may or may not have led to the ear and nasal infections.  So, just a reminder to myself that the CTL target is a very real target to achieve for a minimum level of P/1/2 race success, but “how” I get there is very important.  Better to be 2 – 3 points lower CTL with some added freshness than 2 to 3 points higher with a lot of fatigue.  And as they used to say back in the old days of Saturday morning cartoons, “And that’s one to grown on…”

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.