Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another Windy Night in Leroy

This week, I shifted my Leroy TT workout to Wednesday night instead of Thursday. I do two efforts. The first effort I try to get my best time. The second effort, is more like a long interval than a TT. The race of truth always reveals something.

The wind was pretty strong out of the south east today, which meant it was a pretty tough slog on the outbound leg, and a fast return ride.

I used the waltzing technique mentioned in Eddy B's book throughout the effort. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, pushing harder on 1, then relaxing on 2 and 3, and alternating legs every cycle. Power output was higher than last week.  For the first leg of the course I was generally over 350W. I was under my target power at the turn on on the climb to the turn around. I don't understand why the power output drops on the climb. On a typical ride, it usually seems easier to hold higher power on a hill.

I kept it up on the return leg with a solid finish.

Still, the time was a stinking 21:30, less than 22 mph. I was riding my Easton wheels. The Shimano Dura Ace wheels are noticably faster.

The only way for me to gain time is to do it on the climb. That's what I'll have to try next week.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Heat is On at CB #2

I'm too tired to copy and paste my race report.

The second week of racing is deposited in the pain bank. The pace on the first lap of the covered bridge course was fast, although looking back at the prior week power file, it wasn't much worse, but I cracked on just the second lap. 

I'll attribute it to fatigue and the mid 80 degree temperatures. I am not used to that heat, yet.

I think I'll shuffle my training schedule. Last week, I did a workout of some kind every day. Two Leroy TT efforts is pretty heavy lifting. It seems like an easy ride day is not quite as refreshing as riding the couch. This week, I'll ride Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and take off Thursday and Friday. Do a tune up on Saturday, then race again.

I'll move Leroy to Wednesday. Hopefully I'll be fresh by next Saturday.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


This week I did two tough efforts, Covered Bridge #1, and two Leroy TTs. Other than that, I did short easy tempo rides. I'm feeling weary.

I planned to do a tune up ride the same as last week. Two circuits of the Bass Lake/Sherman/Auburn/Woodiebrook loop, the first at easy tempo, and the second at race pace. The first round was ok, but I faltered early in the second loop, and just took it easy on the way home.

Today was the first day the temperature got into the mid 80s with a raging wind out of the South. The conditions took their toll. The plan for tonight is to stay hydrated and relaxed, and that's my plan for the race tomorrow. I want to do a more efficient ride than last week and enter the last lap reasonably fresh.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I did the Leroy TT course two times today. The wind was out of the west, along the finishing stretch. I tried for a third, but was too tired. 

I knocked another 30 seconds off my time, but my average speed is still slower than I'd like. Hopefully I'll get up to about 25 mph by mid season.

I dusted off a technique I read about years ago in Eddie B's cycling book. I "waltzed" my pedaling stroke. 1-2-3, 1-2-3. On the count of 1, I pushed very hard, and on 2 and 3, took it easy, and alternated legs on each cycle of counts. It worked especially well when I was working into the wind.

My average speed on that section jumped from 23 mph on the first effort to 27 on the second effort.

I can't wait to try it out next week through the whole ride!

Thoughts About Cycling Goals

Over time, I've learned that there are good and bad ways to think about cycling goals.

Winning is for Losers
By far, the worst thing to do is set goals for placing in or winning races. My first bout of bicycle racing back in the 90s ended with burnout from unrealistic expectations. Unless you are the strongest person in the peloton by far, your plans for victory have a sliver of a chance of coming to fruition in a particular race. Even if you ride perfectly, you're subject to the actions of other riders in the field, punctures and other mechanical problems. On the flip side, though winning or placing in a race is a fantastic thrill, that event is just as subject to random chance and the relative strength of the competition, and might not signify much.

A focus on winning just doesn't reflect reality. Winning is a binary event, while cycling is about probability. A healthier way to think about racing goals is to focus on giving yourself the best chance to win or place. That will shift the focus of your attention to the fitness and technical skills that promote your chances of success instead of feeling the pain of missing imaginary podium placings. If you're getting dropped in every race during a season, it's unrealistic to even contemplate winning. In that case, racing is another form of training. If a race is going to end in a field sprint, did you ride to keep your legs fresh, or did you waste energy yo-yoing off the back of the field because you can't take corners at speed? Did you miss a break because you don't have TT power?

The analysis of your performance at races in those terms can lead to constructive changes in your preparation.

Train by Numbers
If you ride with a power meter, it's easy to get obsessed with numerically defined goals. In power based training books, stats are often quoted down to the Watt: e.g. your lactate threshold is 321 Watts. These numbers are also often attributed to genetics. Combine those two tendencies, and it's easy to get the idea that your lactate threshold can be determined as easily as your height, and is as permanent as your hair or eye color. Similarly, charts of example intervals show power versus time graphs that look like perfect square tooth waves on an oscilloscope.

However, cycling rarely resembles the mathematical perfection of a statue of a greek god. It's more like a fat sloppy drunk stumbling down an alley with potholes and greasy patches of pavement.

The numbers that describe your cycling fitness change over the course of years and during a season and are influenced by several external factors, like weather, the amount of sleep you get, and fluctuations in your endocrine system. Chances are, if you are an amateur cyclist, you'll never come close to reaching your genetically determined limits. Instead, limited training time and other factors will impose limits on the fitness you can achieve in a season and in your career.

You should regard your current level of fitness as temporary, and test numbers as temporary. At times during your career and season, you'll be able to make quantum leaps in fitness. Be open to those quantum leaps, and be aware they rarely happen when you plan them. One week you'll struggle to hit 350 Watts on a climb, then suddenly you'll sustain 400 Watts and think it's easy.

Unless you live at sea level where there are miles long beach roads, or have access to a velodrome, you won't be able to maintain your power down to the Watt or even 10 or 20 Watts. It will fluctuate like crazy when you roll over minor changes in terrain, or if a gust of wind gives you a shove. If you attempt to sustain a number like 320 Watts, you'll end up undershooting the target most of the time. To achieve steady state power on a flat road, which usually represents the power required to overcome wind resistance, sometimes you need to accelerate and overcome your inertia, and jump far above the steady state power.

A better approach is to have a large bracket for your power goals while training, like 300-350 Watts, and then a bias for the high side or the low side depending on what you are attempting to achieve. If you are riding tempo, you might bias toward the low side. If you are doing a TT, the high side. In racing, you'll need to be able to absorb sudden high power demands to stick with a group, so do that in training instead of sitting comfortably in the range.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Awesome RATL Video

The producer of this video is compiling a DVD of the ohio cycling scene. Hopefully the CRC boys will get some podium time!

Races at the Lake from ohio cycling on Vimeo.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Training Tweaks

The first weekend of racing is in the bag, so it's time to assess my training and make some adjustments.

Job number one is still weight loss. The 1 pound per week plan is working, I'll stick to it. I can probably trim the calorie intake a tad and still keep my training intensity up there.

The longer efforts, like the route 86 climb to Clay Street, and county line road loop, and Leroy TT are still the main stay of the training program. My cardio fitness has improved from those efforts, but still has room to grow.

I need to mix more anaerobic efforts into the training during the longer efforts. So at Leroy, I'll punch it two or four times per leg while maintaining the average power targets.

Finally, I need to work on my descending skills in some intensive sessions on Woodiebrook. I'm wasting a lot of energy by touching the brakes on the descents just to have a clear road.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Covered Bridge #1

In spite of gray skies and a chance of rain, a large field turned out for the first Covered Bridge Race of 2009. This course was last used in 2007. The race was canceled in 2008 due to bad road conditions. There were at least 30 riders in the 4/5 field and several teams were well represented, particularly Stark Velo, Snakebite, and CRC which had Al, Mike, Chris, Max, and me. The temperature at start time was in the low to mid 50s and there was no noticeable wind.

The Ira road course is a little more than 5 miles around. It climbs sharply at the northwest corner, then gradually descends to parallel the river. Since the road is open to traffic, the yellow line rule was in effect. That severely limits the opportunities to move up in the field. It was only possible to move up on the corners, or to cheat along the left or right side of the field.

The race rolled out with a neutral start from the school parking lot to the start/finish line near the first sharp climb. I was lined up near the front of the field and followed my typical westlake warmup schedule. I did an easy lap around the course prior to the race which got the blood flowing, and then did a hard effort at the beginning of the race to get my heart going at race pace. I went over the first climb at a decent pace, chasing after one of the young riders from RGF. I pushed the pace over the second climb, but didn't intend to sit on the front.

A small group had formed after the hard left turn at the bottom of the hill, and I was feeling the pressure of the race! It looked like the field might split permanently and I was hanging on for dear life at the back of the first group as we descended toward the river. The group reformed again and the pace moderated a little.

There was a prime on the first lap. A rider went clear and nobody seemed eager to chase. The field settled down to a sane pace for the second lap. I basically yo-yoed as we went around the course. I'd drift back over the top of the hill, then work my way back to the front on the rest of the course.

On the third (or was it the fourth?) lap, a rider from Stark Velo either broke his chain or dropped it. I was following Al up the right side of the field, and the guy with the chain problem was just on our left. We squirted around without incident. Somehow, riders on the left of the field scattered away from the chain problem, and a crash took out a few people, including Chris. I only saw the crash out of the corner of my eye. Later, I heard Max say that Chris had crashed. We saw him by the side of the road as we came around for the next lap. Luckily he only suffered minor cuts and scrapes, though his bike seems to have sustained some damage. Unfortunately, one rider left in an ambulance with a likely broken collar bone. (Best wishes for a quick recovery!)

On the bell lap, I pushed too hard to get toward the front of the field as we hit the climb and blew up hugely. I wasn't able to chase back on and just soft pedaled to the finish. Al and Max continued on with the field. I was toast! Next week, I'll have to take it a little easier on the climb, even if I slip back in the field a little. I also need to work on my descending skills. I was a little too nervous on the descent to the turn. I think I'll need to adjust my saddle position so my weight is more evenly balanced on the bike. I feel a little unstable.

All in all, I can't complain about the race. It was a tough fitness test. It's clear that I'm closer to being able to compete more comfortably in a race with some climbing and very hard anaerobic efforts.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I raced the Frosty Toes RR back in February but that was like a pre-season game. The fitness level of the field was pretty low and nobody pushed the pace until the final lap. The night before that race, I slept like a baby and had minimal anticipation. But this weekend, there's RATL #1 (which I am skipping), and the first Covered Bridge Race, which I'm doing, and I am feeling the nerves.

I'm not sure what the source of pre-race jitters is. I don't get nervous about the Westlake Training Race, for example, even though I want to do well. But I am usually nervous about the weekend races. The pain level is about the same for a weekend race and Westlake, so it can't be that. Maybe it's just some monkey fear about the possibility of bad outcomes in the weekend races. There's generally more terrain to contend with, and higher speeds. Maybe it's a deep fear of failure. No matter how I try to construct my view of the race in positive terms, like just trying to do my best, the idea of wanting to win, and therefore, the a fear of failure is still there.

One of my main goals for these early season races is to relax a lot more during the early part of the race. Try to pedal as efficiently and little as possible. Not to react in panic at moves at the head of the race, rather, do the minimum to close gaps and stay in the top 5 or 6 places.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Leroy TT Ride

I rode an easy tempo north on Ravenna Road to Fay, then did a couple hard efforts on 86 to warm up before riding the Leroy TT course. The wind was out of the north-northwest and the temperature was close to 60F, although it felt a little colder due to the wind off the lake. My plan was to push 300-350W on the outbound leg, and 350-400W on the return. That was a good way to pace the ride.

The 300-350W effort level is pretty easy to sustain. In those conditions, that equalled about 20-22 mph depending on the slope of the road. The 350-400W level was pretty difficult to sustain. In fact, I rarely went over 350W, and was going 25-28mph. However, I didn't feel close to blowing up. I need to ride with more punch to avoid bogging down at a lower power level. Next time, I'll have to work in some anaerobic efforts on each leg of the course to keep the average power higher.

I rode home at walking tempo. My back was sore and I was fairly miserable all the way home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pumping Iron

Over the winter, I lift three times a week, but once I start riding a lot, I can only manage 1 or 2 sessions, and typically do them on rainy days. When I'm too tired from riding, it's impossible to lift.

Most sessions, I focus on my core and legs. I do back extensions and crunches for my core. For the legs, I do leg presses in sets of 12 and leg extensions and curls. I isolate my right quads with the leg extensions to try to rebuild the muscle to normal strength. Even 1 year after the accident, it's still only 75-80% in spite of all my work. Once a week, I'll mix in the rest of the machines.

The benefits from lifting are pretty obvious. More core strength translates to comfort on the bike in aerodynamic position, and while climbing out of the saddle. More leg strength makes it possible to push the pedals harder. When I only ride, my fitness seems to plateua. To load my cardio system, I need to be able to push the pedals harder. Lifting very heavy weights at low reps seems to help my sprint.

As I chase the 40 mph barrier, I'll mix in more low rep/high weight sessions, plyometrics, and power lift moves.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ira Road Course Topo Map

The course runs clockwise, Ira Road to Buckeye Trail, to Everett to Riverview. There are track crossings on Everett and Ira Road.

End of the Pre-Season

I spent last season recovering from my January 2, 2008 car accident. As I went through 2008 'cross season, I focused more on lifting than riding and started to get my leg back to normal strength.

My goals for 2009 are:
  • lose 1 pound a week, with a target weight of 205 pounds in the mid summer;
  • Average 400W for the Leroy TT course;
  • Do a 40 mph sprint. 
That level of fitness should translate to solid results. In the early season, I'll just be happy to finish in the field instead of struggling not to get dropped. I plan to be on form in July. I'd like to move up to mid pack at cyclocross late in the year.

I kicked off my 2009 training season on December 26, 2008. The plan was to ride a little bit, then ski as much as I could physically stand once we got enough snow.

In January, we had good skiing conditions through the whole month. I did 30 hours of cardio (mostly skiing), and lifted twice a week, focusing on leg and core exercises. I was limited by fatigue and sore joints. I rode the mountain bike in the snow about once a week, typically for 1-2 hours.

February marked the end of the ski season, and the first serious fitness test of the season. The Tackle The Tower stair climb was on February 7. I knocked 30 seconds off my 2007 time with a 6:51. That equated to 384 Watts. The month ended with the Frosty Toes RR in Croton. I missed the field split on the final lap and bonked horribly, but felt pretty good up 'til then.

In February I totalled 20 hours of cardio, and continued lifting twice a week.

In March, I really started to load up on cycling hours and focused on 5 minute and 20 minute intervals (the Leroy TT course, and the route 86 climb). I did 37 hours and also continued lifting. I did several group rides. My leg strength built through the month and got ahead of my cardio fitness. It seems like I can generate a lot of power for shorter intervals, 400W+ for 2-5 minutes, but it's not reliable at all. I'll crack at the end of some of those efforts.

In April, I'll continue the longer intervals and start mixing in more short, sharp efforts. I intend to focus on crit like races in the summer, so I need to do more high frequency efforts to simulate accelerating out of turns, but my aerobic base still needs work.

When Google Maps is Wrong

I was trying to find a training route in Southern Geauga County by browsing through Google Maps. I found an error! Crackel Road doesn't exist between Frost Road and Chamberlain even though it's on the map. I actually reported it to TeleAtlas, and am waiting for a response. On the satellite image, it's clear that there's a field there.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Training so much it Hurts

I did about 5 hours over the weekend and set out to do another two hours this afternoon before the rain sets in. I felt a little fatigued at the start, but good once I warmed up. I started to feel some pain in my left foot, though. Hopefully it's just a little irritated. I cut the ride short to avoid aggravating it.

The bike is tuned up really well. Shifts were precise. The new chain felt smooth. The new wheels are great. I'm looking forward to this weekend's action!

Bike Maintenance

The chain on my Cervelo-R3 was overdue to be replaced. Since I got new wheels, and a new cassette last week, I finally got around to it today.

Swapping the chain every 1,000 miles is probably the smart thing to do instead of waiting for the chain to wear and damage the cassette. Going through a handful of chains every year is cheaper than going through a cassette or two every season.

I popped the wheels off the bike last night, and broke the old chain, then took the opportunity to clean the jockey wheels and the other formerly difficult to access parts.

I wasn't in the zen bike mechanic mode and rushed joining the new Shimano chain. I am spoiled from the Wipperman Connex link, and haven't used the magic chain tool for a couple of years. I gave one turn too many to the tool and ended up with a tight link. Shoot. I loosened it up, but I'm paranoid about breaking a chain out in the middle of nowhere, so I broke the chain again, and carefully pushed the second pin through in a new link.  The pin ended up off axis and bent the link. Argggh. I only had the one chain on hand so called it a night.

This morning I popped into MRC in Chardon and grabbed a couple of chains. I got home and even read the instructions for installing it. In full zen mode, I cut the chain to length, and installed it. No problems! It was a relief to get the bike working well again.