Monday, December 31, 2007

Fitness is fading on schedule. Those 6 months of training, intervals, and racing start to get eroded as 7 days of riding becomes 3-4, intensity decreases and riding for fun endurance takes over. I did a couple of 50+ mile rides in two weeks and my legs hurt because they were not used to it. The VO2 max and threshold will be the first victims of non-training. My ftp will decrease as well, probably returning to the 270 range by February and my CTL decreases out of the 60's and into the upper 40's.

Cycling amazes me in that you have to do so much to gain so little. In fact, at 41, it is more like doing a lot just to stay in one place (Red Queen hypothesis). And, once you stop doing a lot, the decrease in fitness is very rapid.

In terms of weight, I was 169 at nationals and now I am up to 174 pounds. It will be a struggle to stay around 172 which is my goal. Most other people I have spoken to have had a significant weight gain since racing stopped. It makes sense.

The motivation (for me) also gets harder without any discernible goals. Weather conditions especially unmotivate me whereas during training I would want to get out in the worst weather to get the workout in. There is a happy medium somewhere.

Friday, December 28, 2007

What a Few Picture Say

Trish Albert took a neat sequence of pictures at nationals right around the corner of a 180 degree turn. At the top, near the course tape, is the best line and the course falls off camber toward the viewer. This is the same general area where Ryan Trebon got smacked from another rider going the other way to the 180 corner.

Picture 1: I decided to run the 180 turn instead of trying to slow down to take the best line on the ridge. For me it was too risky in this race, unlike the B race where I rode it each lap. The turn here was just too icy for me to do it with confidence.

Picture 2: I have just remounted and you can see that I do not have my feet in the pedals yet. The course is very icy here and the snow is really coming down. You can see that I am on my original bike now but my rear wheel has been replaced with a Bontrager Race Lite and clincher tire while the front is my own Mavic Cosmic carbon wheel. This was the result of my tubular failure earlier in the race.

Picture 3: This picture shows that I am now clipped in and rolling. But more interesting is the knotted course tape in the background. The course doubled back on itself here and so many riders were going through the tape that it constantly had to be re-tied or replaced. Many riders would simply ride over the white plastic course stakes but only to find that they have an aluminum spike in the bottom causing many flats you could hear distinctively.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I inadvertently cut the cord to my power tap CPU while trying to take it off my bike in the dark. Does this have deeper meaning?

As 2008 approaches there are some cycling projects that I would like to accomplish.
  1. Do some MTB races this year for fun. If I can, I will ride some on the cross bike. Word is that Sven Nys is considering using his cross bike for the Bejing Olyimpic MTB race.
  2. I'd like to get up into the NC mountains on the parkway for 2-3 days this year.
  3. I'd like to organize the street sprints this spring.
  4. I'd like to take my bike to Lincoln, Nebraska this June and ride everyday after grading.
  5. I'd like to do some cross races next fall without training and perhaps travel to New England or Portland/Seattle to do a USGP race and get slaughtered.
  6. I'd like to sell frites next year during the 'cross season.
  7. I think I want to try 6 Gap again. Can I beat 6 hours? Maybe some other centuries too.
  8. Defend my SS state championship. Riiight.
  9. Get my new steel road bike built from Zanconato.
  10. Get out once every 3 months or so and ride the cross bike on the dirt forest service roads around Dahlonega with Dahlonega Wheelworks or maybe Tracy S.
I am going to try and ride 3-4 days a week and swim 2-3 days depending on the week. Running is an option but my body revolts. If I can do it, I'd love to do some of the adult cross country runs next fall.

My only goal in cycling left is to ride a 40km time trial under 60 minutes. When? No idea.

This is all a huge difference from the last 5-6 years and I think it will be good.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

2007 Functional Threshold Progression

This year I started out in January recovering from a nasty sinus illness in December. My chronic training stress level (CTL) was low at 38 tss/d. As I recovered I did a threshold test in January to see what my base line was. I always do a 5 minute all out test and a 20 minute all out test on the same route. On January 7th my functional threshold power (ftp) was 279 watts. My training stress balance score (tss) which is a measure of freshness was in the negative at -21. Normally ftp tests are done fresh. I assume this is my baseline ftp when I am not training.

By February 7th my CTL was 48 tss/d and I did the Tundra TT which is basically an all out effort for about 25 minutes. I was able to do an impressive 302 w average for the 25.12 time. Of course, I think this is more indicative of a 25 minute FTP and not a predicted hour ftp of 302. In fact, my ftp for 60 minutes should be about 287w with that effort. My TSB score at this time was -1.7.

In April I tested again and came out with a ftp of 282 w. My TSB was a -2.2 and my CTL was 57 tss/d. This was after a long bike tour and some time off due to injury.

In July I tested again again after beginning my training for cyclcross. I had been doing lots of threshold work so it was no surprise to see that my FTP had climbed to 301 w. My TSB was 7 and my CTL was 63 tss/d.

In October I tested and found that the intensity build I had been doing and the cyclcocross races has increased my threshold to 315 w. My CTL was at a high of 70 tss/d and my TSB was -7.

So I raised my FTP 36 points which was a 11% increase in 10 months. If my focus had been to raise it from the beginning of the year I am sure I could have increased it more. The power meter was a wonderful tool for planning, implementing, and reviewing workouts to improve this critical fitness marker.

I also lost 10 pounds in those 10 months and did so that it did not cause a power decrease.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The 2007 Riding Year

This year was a fun year for riding. I did a little of everything and had some success racing too. My highlights for this year were winning the GA single speed state championship in my age group, doing a fun tour from Pittsburgh to DC via the Allegheny Passage/C&O Canal, riding in Lincoln, Nebraska, building up for and racing in the Georgia Cyclocross Series, and finally racing well in one of the toughest cyclocross national championships ever.

This year I rode 6,174 miles in 379 hours and burning 266,000 calories (134.4 "Bob's"). The biggest single week total was during the bike tour was where I rode the whole 351 miles.

My power distribution shows that I spent a lot of time in the recovery and endurance zones for the year. A lot of that was fun riding in the spring, the bike tour, and then base for 'cross.

Above is the breakdown for Jan-June and June-December.

In terms of my Performance Manager Chart that keeps track of TSB (training stress balance or "freshness"), ATL (acute training load) and CTL (chronic training load) here are the charts with significant events shown.

January to June

June to December
I was sick more often than in past years. I had a number of ilnesses with fevers this year and a couple of infections and injuries that I was able to manage. I had to take off a few days in April for an injury and 2-3 days here and there when I had ilnesses with a fever.

In terms of training stress and workout intensity, here is my record of each for the year.

January to June June to December

The hardest workout of the year for me was the GTC Club Championship Race. Even though I did not do very well, my power output for the time racing was significant and a very good effort.

Duration: 2:42:40
Work: 2069 kJ
TSS: 225.8 (intensity factor 0.913)
Norm Power: 259
VI: 1.22
Distance: 58.408 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 938 212 watts
Heart rate: 82 179 152 bpm
Cadence: 32 141 95 rpm
Speed: 2.2 36.7 21.6 mphIt may not seem like it was that hard, but I was very tired at the end.

My build up for cyclocross was a good, structured one this year. I had a coach and I did everything that was asked of me with a lot of discipline. At times I thought that i was doing too much and I was pretty tired a lot of the time. My race results in the fall were not as I expected but my peak for nationals was very nice. Compared to the first 6 races, the last 3 were great.

Oxmoor, Alabama --3rd
Conyers, GA--3rd
Winder, GA--6th (crash)
Macon, GA--6th
Augusta, GA--6th
Blue Ridge, GA--5th
Dahlonega, GA--2nd
Kansas City, Kansas--6th
Kansas City, Kansas--44th (flat)

I did not use the power tap this year in any of the races so no power files. The hardest race for me is always in Winder.

I was able to do more riding than usual out of town. I liked the bike tour a lot but preferred the first leg to the second. The C&O canal was not too strenuous but the ride was rough and we had a couple of mishaps (Mike taking a spill and Jeff breaking his bike). Riding in Lincoln, Nebraska for a week after work was really a refreshing time. I was pretty much depressed and a little burnt out. The folks in Lincoln were so nice and welcoming and the riding was very fun and different that I decided to give training one last shot, all or nothing. I wanted to get it out of my system and try and do everything I wanted with no regrets. I succeeded with about 90% fulfillment. I would have rather not had a flat in the national championship race because I was feeling great and in a great position. But, it is not enough of course to abandon my plan. This year I plan on doing mostly riding and will probably do 4 MTB races, a century or two and some cross races but with NO training! I am interested to see how much I can do with just base.

HUP United has been a great group to race for/with. Their no pressure approach and dedication to 'cross has been a pleasure and it is nice to know that there are other folks out there crazy about Belgium, the classics, and 'cross. I hope to continue racing for them albeit at a lower level than this year.

2007 was a good year for riding and I hope 2008 is mellow and fun.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Nationals are in the Books

I have done two national competitions and both have been held in extreme weather. But, cyclocross racers pride and boast all the time about how tough it it and how they want the poor weather so I figured why not give us the worst possible. They will still hold the race and someone will still win. So, as I watched the weather change from Thursday to Saturday it actually got better as the week went on. The snow fall totals were lower but the biggest thing I watched were the temperatures and how they affected the course. All in all this was one to remember and I am glad I got to take part.

Thursday--40+ B Race Day

The temperature was cold but eventually got above freezing making the course pretty muddy. I pre-rode the course at 8am with my race being at noon. I did 2-3 laps and it was clear where the danger spots would be. The first turn past the start/finish had an innocent little berm that I am sure grew daffodils and green grass during the spring and summer. Now what was left was a muddy sheet, scarred with deep tire tracks. The entry was a puddle and the hill was slick. The other danger spot was the off-camber 180 degree turn that hugged a ridge. If you missed the inside line you would slide down the hill. The stair run-ups were not bad but the off camber parts after them leading back to the pavement gave people fits. I could ride it 25% of the time.

I hung out in the warm up tent until they started calling us up. Once lined up it was pretty cold but the first part of the course was a long paved hill so it would get warm quickly. I had a great start and it the muddy turn without any problems. Soon 6 of us were away and had a nice gap. Over the course of the race the mud was the invisible force that guided you. It took you where it wanted you to go and as long as you did not over brake or turn thefront wheel too much you were OK. You could ride it fast if you tried. I felt like if you could just keep your feet going your traction was fine. There were two slight uphill mud bogs that were hard to power through but other than that I really liked the course conditions.

During the race I would catch 4-5th place on the stairs and then they would gap me on the hill through the start/finish. I got hung up on the last lap on the 180 off-camber by a lapped rider who would not concede the line to me so I had to go down the embankment and lost about 10 seconds. During the race I had the 5th placed rider looking tired right in front of me. I told him not to give up and keep giving 100%. He then rode away to 3rd place! Doh! He did share his strawberry prize with me later. I was only off of the podium by about 20 seconds and I was thrilled to earn 6th.

Course Evolution

The next 3 days were really cool to watch. As the temperatures and weather changed, the course evolved as well. Friday's races started out as ice sheets for the juniors and gave way later as 37 degrees and 500 riders plowed the course into deep furrows and mud bogs. They took out the barriers in the morning because of danger but they would return and disappear throughout the 3 days. After Firday the temperature dropped into the 20's and as snow fell the ponded water on the course was insulated and super-cooled. The frozen ruts were soft on Saturday but there were ice patches hidden under the snow. The water puddles would instantly freeze to your clothes/skin upon contact and the course near two pit areas were two big mud bogs. By Saturday the treacherous spots were the ice patches and frozen ruts--there you had no control and somtimes you couold just power over them and sometimes not.

Saturday--Masters 40-44 Championship Race

A 2pm race time was actually worse today since the high temperature was at 8am. By 2pm it was 20 degrees and the wind was blowing at 15 mph with snow falling. Besides raining toads, or locusts, this was about as bad as it could get. To be honest, I delivered newspapers on my bike back in the day and delivered in the same conditions many times. It was fun to remember that.

Emerging from the warm-up tent 100 guys made it down to staging where the officials looked weary and cold. They were calling names too quickly and mispronouncing them and I missed my call-up. I eventually was placed 2 rows back from my registration row. The start was great and I was around 15th heading up to the nasty right berm. Once there it was like a Tour de France first week sprint stage where riders lose their minds and the pile up falls like dominos. Here is the shot with me in the middle of the pile up:

So now I was in around 22nd but still optimistic because the crash had split the field. I hung in there for another lap and on the next lap I could feel my back tire losing pressure. I had a tubular so I rode it back to the pit--that was a real challenge, riding a flat tubular over ice and snow! Once at the pit Shey and I did a bike exchange but the new bike was one we all shared, I did not check it properly and the tire pressure was too high and the bike would not shift into the big ring. I had lost a lot of places, probably around 60th now and managed to make up some ground. I was taking a lot of risks and crashed a few times. I was still having a lot of fun and sicne the pit was double sided, we got to use it twice a lap. Shey had my regular bike outfitted with a new rear wheel and I was back on course. I was worried about getting lapped so I really put in a big effort the last lap and a half.

The stair runs were interesting because so many riders would run the stairs and spend time remounting down the hill in between stair sets and then dismount and try to ride the off-camber iced part that led back to the pavement. I decided that each lap I would shoulder my bike and run the entire section, up both stair sections, the downhill section in between, and all the off-camber stuff and remount near the pavement. I passed a lot of riders this way.

In the end I was pretty haggared from the effort, cold and had some cuts and bruises. But I felt great that I did not give up even in the worst weather and bike conditions.


Trish Albert's Photos Reports

Some Video


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Did my 6x5(1) threshold intervals today and they were pretty easy which means my threshold number is a bit low. I have not tested since July and I reckon that my threshold power number is about 315w right now. However, that means nothing since in 'cross you are getting nowhere near that during a race. I think last year my average race watts were something like 270 which seems counterintuitive but you are spending a lot of time coasting or below 50 watts so that brings the average down.

Anyway, now it is time to rest and peak for next week without overlooking Sunday, which will be very hard. It will be a good race for Brady since he has been coming on strong lately.

Yesterday I did some L6 efforts of 45 seconds over 400w. I did 2 sets with 7 reps each. The first 7 were done on a hill and the second set on flat ground over at my usual training place off of Riverside Rd in Roswell. For the second set I did some out-of-corner sprints at the beginning of the intervals just to stay sharp.

My legs were tired from yesterday's L6 workout but I ended being able to complete them without too much fatigue.

Thursday I will do 5x5 threshold efforts with 1 minute recovery in between.

I am going to start my peak Friday for next week. I'll take Friday off, open up Saturday, race Sunday, take Monday off, do an opening up Tuesday, travel Wednesday, race Thursday, recover Friday, race Saturday. I am hoping my TSB will be 17-20 by Saturday next week. I should be good and fresh for nationals.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

3 More Interval Sessions until I don't ever have to do them again if I don't want. Today was a hard 4x30 seconds all out. Tomorrow will be 2 sets of 8x45 sec L6 (>400w) intervals and Thursday will be 5x5 threshold intervals. Then it is time to work on my peak for nationals. I may sneak in another interval workout Tuesday depending on what my TSB is. I have done so many intervals since June that I won't miss them.

I am getting decent power but by the last 2 intervals today I was hammered.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blue Ridge Cyclocross Race

Perry and Barb did a great job in setting up a challenging course in a beautiful location. Being in the mountains, you knew it would be hilly. The main feature was a long uphill section, which was really 3 distinct uphill sub-sections. Coming off of some gravel you had a deep grass section and this went 180 to the left up a gravel road. At the top of the gravel road you went onto pavement and followed this quarter mile paved road (6-8%) to the top where it got steeper. At the steepest point you made a left 90 degree across a small ditch and then up a quite steep, loose dirt hill which was sometimes rideable and sometimes a run. From there the uphill ended and you got a nice treat to a screaming downhill.

Hills are not my thing. Even now with less weight than ever I did not make it up that hill very fast. As evidenced on the first lap, the experienced road guys used their power to get away on the hill, first Nate, then eventually Brendan attacked. I was able to make up for it by taking risks on the downhill section and latch back on, but eventually it took its toll on me and I had a hard time keeping their wheel on the flat sections. Otherwise I felt very strong.

Brendan attacked on the 2nd or 3rd lap after we had reeled in Nate. Brady went with him as well as Nate. Jay was behind me but soon passed me on the hill. Eventually Nate blew mid-race, Brady was dropped and Jay stayed out in front of me. It was the usual pecking order. I had to run in or under the red the whole race and go at my own pace hoping people would come back to me. Since this did not happen I took 5th.

This is the first year where I simply cannot respond to attacks. The top 4 guys are simply too strong. This is very frustrating with all the training I have done and I wonder what nationals will bring. With one race left, my last serious GA CX race, I want to make the podium one last time.

It is nice to know that every once in awhile you have affected other folks to take up the sport or train harder. It is a big compliment for which I am thankful.

Sixth and fifth place finishes are a good ending because if I was killing it this year I might be tempted to give it another shot seriously next year. I do hope that next year all 4 guys only do the A races. All of them are talented enough.

If you want something special after the Dahlonega race to celebrate the end of my serious competition, catch me at my car after the race.