Thursday, September 23, 2010

one more time

Since the last time I rode the Leroy TT (two weeks ago), I've been trying to find a more aerodynamic position on my road bike that doesn't pinch my breathing, and that doesn't interfere with my pedaling mechanics.

That's easier said than done. I went through this exercise last year without any positive result. I tried different stem lengths and saddle positions. This year, I just tried some simple things. I basically just tried to get my elbows in while keeping my chest open. It seems to be more aerodynamic, but it's definitely not as powerful, since I can't pull on the bars as easily as I can with my hands on the hoods.

So my strategy for this final TT of the season was to get into that more aerodynamic position on downhills, but stay in my normal position the rest of the time.

However, tonight, I was really more worried that I'd just crack somewhere on the course. I've been a little on the tired side this week and my legs have been getting sore while I'm out riding instead of the day after a ride. Call it instant onset muscle soreness. I didn't feel great during my warm-up.

However, once I rolled off from the starting line, I felt good enough to make an all out effort to finally try to crack the 20 minute barrier for this year.

Two weeks ago, I did a flawless ride, but came up a little short at 20:04. This week, I faltered on the climb, but came up with a 20:04 again! The average power for this week was 352W and was 350W last week. Here's how the two rides compare per section:

This week:
Start to Turn: 5:29 / 356 Watts / 22.6 mph
Turn to Turn Around: 5:50 / 327 Watts / 18.4 mph
Turn around to Turn:  3:52 / 332 Watts / 27.1 mph
Turn to Finish: 4:57 / 383 Watts / 25.1 mph

Two Weeks Ago:
Start to Turn: 5:25 / 353 Watts / 22.1 mph
Turn to Turn Around: 5:30 / 338 Watts / 18.8 mph
Turn Around to Turn: 4:08 / 337 Watts / 25.6 mph
Turn to Finish: 5:06 / 359 Watts / 24.8 mph

That's actually pretty interesting. It's possible the wind is the main factor between these two rides. Although, if it wasn't, if I were fresh, I could have knocked 20+ seconds off my time.

Well, I've got a while to prepare for next season!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

whiskey island cx

Every year I go to Whiskey Island to race my bike, I think I should go down there more often because it's such a spectacular location--it's got clear views of the Lake, the River, and the Cleveland skyline, which looks great on an early autumn blue sky day.

Also, every year I race at Whiskey Island, as I reflect back on the day I start wondering why I am so slow on the CX bike and if there's something I can do to change it. Most of the course is grass--there's also some sand, but there's also about 1/2 mile of pavement that sticks out into the Lake. When I get on the pavement, I get up to speed, and reel in riders ahead of me like they've got their brakes on. Once I'm on the grass, the roles get reversed. It drives me crazy. I feel like I should be able to figure out some way to go faster, at least while it's dry. Oh well.

The "B" field was huge, so the start was crazy. I went into today hoping to be up toward the front of the race for a while, but even though I was pretty quick into the pedals, and spooled up through the gears, there was no chance. I kept moving to the left to get some space to move up, but I realized we were already three or four rider widths off the course when we got to the first turn, and I was in argy-bargy town. I could have only moved forward if I had a snow plow attached to my bike.

At the start of lap two, I fell into my normal pattern. I didn't warm up enough (at all), so I felt horrible until the third lap and started to work my way into the group of people I always race against. It was a fun battle today.

On the final lap, I thought I'd nuke the other riders in my group on the pavement section and claim a glorious 30th place (or whatever) but some fishermen chose that moment to walk in front of us and I was only able to go full speed briefly, so I guess I didn't have much of a gap heading into the final grass sections. I thought I was safe but I bobbled a couple times on the way to the finish and got caught in the woods section just a few feet before the line and settled for 33rd.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

best ever

I felt pretty tired for most of this week. I've been riding a lot through July and August, and the CX race wrecked my legs on Saturday. My legs weren't too snappy when I did my warm-up lap for the Leroy TT, but once I cranked it up a couple of times, I started to feel pretty comfortable.

The race for me this week was all about the false flat section on the hill. I finally figured out my problem with that section. I typically shift down a couple of times on the first part of the climb, then wait until I'm over the first little crest to shift up again. For some reason, that causes me to blow up and slow down for a few seconds. If I keep the pressure on my legs, I'm fine, so I need to shift up just before the crest.

So that's what I did. Last week, my power output on that section dipped down into the 200s. This week, there's still a noticeable drop-off in the power, but not too much.

So for the numbers. I averaged 350 Watts over 20:04. That's 420 kJoules (~1.6 snicker's bars) in just 20 minutes. I'm pretty sure that's my best power output over that duration for as long as I've been keeping track. That corresponds with threshold testing I've done over the years but it's the first time I've managed to do it on a real ride. I don't think I left too many seconds on the course tonight.

I've got a couple of chances left to break the 20 minute barrier. I think my best bet is to turn on the afterburners a few hundred meters earlier than I normally do at the end of the course.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

true grit: manatoc cx

Big Bike Fest
The cyclocross season got started today. It was appropriate that the weather felt like autumn. Here in Chardon, it was raining all day, but down in Peninsula, the weather was cool, very dry, dusty and windy. The parking lot was full by the time I got there, about an hour before the "B" race. There was a mountain bike race/festival going on at the same time, which added to the atmosphere.

After registering, and catching up with lots of people I hadn't seen in a year, I didn't have a whole lot of time to warm-up, and only rode about 1/4 of a lap before lining up to start.

I started about three rows back. The starting chute was pretty narrow, so even though the front row went off at a hot pace, it was still pretty crowded and slow heading up into the first turn. When we got to the woods single track section, it was still packed. There wasn't much chance to pass, so I was just cruising along.

The single track section was really excellent. The trail wound through pine trees and climbed and descended a gradual slope. The main difficulty getting through there was the sections where tree roots spanned the entire trail. On the first couple of laps, I crawled through there to avoid a puncture, and to avoid crashing.

Once we got out of the single track, we hit the main part of the course which criss-crossed a big field. Eventually, the course got to another big feature, a sandpit volleyball court, which we crossed twice. The sand was at least a foot deep, but it was relatively easy to plow through, but it was a scene of much mayhem. On one lap a rider went down in front of me, and even though I heard people in the crowd urging me to ride over him, I dismounted, and carried the bike around. That emptied out to the only barriers on the course, and then it was around to the start again.

I took it way too easy on the first couple of laps. I tend to forget the feeble off road skills I have over the summer, so it's always a little bit of a shock to ride on all the cyclocross surfaces. Also, my contact lenses were close to opaque from dust even though I had shades on. I started to dial it up after that and finished strong. I'm sure I finished way down in the field, but I managed to pass at least three or four people.

I felt great at the end, well, except for my left arm which was totally numb from all the banging, and my shin which I biffed on my pedal. I should be able to do a lot better next week. I definitely need a better warm-up before that level of effort.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

a whole 'nother level?

I had to scramble a little bit this afternoon to get ready for the TT. I relearned a cycling truism--"if it creaks it breaks". My seat has been making creaking and popping noises for the past couple of months. I've taken it apart about 10 times, cleaned the seat rails, flipped the binder around, etc... but finally, I found a crack in the aluminum of the seatpost binder. I thought I'd be calling around to find a new seatpost, but I actually had a spare Thompson Elite seatpost in my parts bin. I felt like I found a lost bar of gold.

On the drive up to the TT, I was feeling pretty confident. It seems like I jumped up to a new level of fitness (or just peaked) the past couple of weeks. I rocked a good average power last week at the Mitchell's Mill TT, then I went and cranked out a 366 Watt average up Kirtland Chardon on Tuesday. I was also pretty sure I'd be suffering a lot, both of those efforts really hurt and they were less than half the duration of the Leroy TT. And the common denominator for both those efforts, the proof that I'm on the limit is that I start hyperventilating every once in a while, and I can't say I enjoy that much.

I had no real plan for the TT tonight. Just go all out from the start. I sprinted for the first 15 seconds, then settled into an all out effort. I put all thoughts of trying to be aerodynamic, or maintaining any particular cadence out of my mind and just tried to wring as much power out as I could.

I carried a lot of speed to the corner, so I had a chance to sit up a little and take a breather. I felt some TT guilt, though, as a couple seconds dripped away. I went full gas up the hill. I was really concentrating on making a good transition to the false flat, but didn't do a great job there. That's my nemesis. My power output dropped from 350s down to 200 Watts for 45 seconds.

I was also a little gassed going down the first section of the downhill. I didn't get back on top of the gear until about a quarter of a mile down the hill, but from there I kept the pedal to the floor all the way to the finish. The heat started to get to me by the last mile or so, but I didn't crack.

I ended up with my best time so far this year: 20:07--but still 9 seconds slower than my personal best. I averaged 336 Watts. I think there's still some room for improvement. If I don't slow on the false flat section, for example, I could theoretically gain 20 seconds.