Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Devil's (Punchbowl) is Gonna Getcha...

I was excited for today's race - Devil's Punchbowl Road Race - as it was my first RR. I have been thinking that I should be good at these races, as they're more a test of overall fitness and climbing ability than raw power than criteriums test. Today's route for the Cat 5 race was 2 laps of 16 miles, w/ 1.5k ft of climbing/lap. I've done rides like this many times, right?

First, I have to say that I didn't feel so good heading to this race. It was a whole day away from Jean and Jack (race course is 80 miles away, my race was at 12:30). I didn't really account for the logistics when I signed up...

As for the race - it should be noted that the Devil's Punchbowl is a high desert recreation area w/ beautiful scenery and roads (see above pic). Joshua trees are everywhere. I saw a coyote in mid-day (rare!). But the race - oh was a total disaster. I lost contact w/ the group at the end of the first 4 mile climb, and once you're off the back it's impossible to get back on. So I toiled either alone or w/ a few others to work back in, which made for a ton of work. In the end, this resulted in major cramps and even more major disappointment. I just have not had the time for the right miles for a race like this. The criterium training I've been doing is not good prep - a 30 minute high intensity race is not the same as a 1:45 road race. The 95 degree temps and 10% humidity made it worse, coupled w/ the 4,000 ft altitude.

I imagine I finished ahead of a few guys, but I'd be surprised if it was more than 5 or 6. I could be surprised, but I doubt it. It kind of feels like a bit of a waste to leave the family for such a ridiculous effort.

I don't think I did a lot wrong in the race, either prep-wise or racing. I just wasn't fast enough to keep up when it counted. I ate right and hydrated the 2 days before the race, I ate right and hydrated this morning. But it doesn't matter if you just get dropped on the key climb...

I'll get back on the horse again, but this year my best bet is to stick w/ criteriums. I doubt there are really any more road races this year, but it's just as well.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Training Through It...

It's been busy w/ work, Jack and also training. Since the Garrett Lemire Ojai race, in which I've since found out I was 9th place among the Cat 5's, I've tried to get some additional mileage in. I had a criterium last Sunday (more on that below), and I have 2 road races on the schedule. The Devil's Punchbowl road race and the CA State Champs road race in Bakersfield are just around the corner. I've never done a full road race, so I'm curious about how this will go.

I have been trying to alter my training to get some additional miles in my legs, rather than just sprint-based workouts. It has been a challenge to do this, but last Saturday I put in 50 miles/5k feet of climbing. I tried to keep the HR < 145 and avoid sprinting or redlining anywhere, but it was a bit of an experiment to do this the day before a race. My legs were definitely a bit fatigued, but I decided to focus on hydration and carb intake for Saturday and Sunday to see if I could muster some good legs on Sunday. To do this I targeted 600g of carbs in the 24h after my Saturday ride (not easy to do - a bagel = 50g for example). I got pretty close by my measurements.

In the end I guess it worked, as the legs were feeling great at the Torrance Crit. I got warmed up quickly, stayed at the front w/out wasting much effort, had a really good shot at a top-5 finish before yet another dude crashed right in front of me on the last lap. I'm still happy w/ 8th - my first top 10!

But really the best part of the race was that the family came along. Because this race was at 5pm instead of the usual 7am, Jean and Jack came along to see the race. I can't describe how great this was. First, it was just great to have them there. But secondly, it was so nice to include them in this nutty obsession rather than feeling like I'm abandoning them to race. I think we all had fun!

With family priorities taking, well, priority, it turns out I'm not able to race the state champs on May 10th. We have a number of family events in Philly, and it's really important for me to be there when Jean's family meets Jack for the 1st time. I am disappointed w/ not being able to do this race, but it's so much more important to be with Jack and our family. It's hard to fit it all in sometimes, but I am lucky to have a family that understands my lycra and carbon fiber obsession and goes along w/ my plans for the most part. Being with family the weekend of May 10th is something that I'm really looking forward to.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Back to Racing

OK - it's been a while since I raced (not counting the Camarillo practices), so today was time to get back to business.

The Garrett Lemire Grand Prix in Ojai is a race I have been thinking about for a couple of months. There a couple of reasons for the anticipation - a) it is a Cat 4-5 combined race, b) there is a significant hill in the middle of the course that always separates the group and c) getting dropped will result in getting pulled from the race. This race is probably the best thing we'll do all year - it has a circuit around downtown Ojai, complete w/ moto escort.

For my part, I got up at 5:30am to drive up there for the 7:45am start. I did not feel great in the warmup, and 20 mins into the race I knew I was in trouble. My heart rate wasn't going up, my legs were tired. I didn't have any snap. This meant that the peloton slowly crept away from me, especially on the sections of the course that were usually a chance to recover. But when you're off the back, there is no recovery.

One goal for this race was to avoid being pulled, so I just kept hammering as much as I could alone. I managed to finish w/a group of 4 or 5 riders, and we were probably about 1:30 back from the final 25 guys. I guess that's not too bad - it turns out that 50% of the field was pulled, so just staying in was a victory in itself for me. Save one guy, the rest of my team was pulled.

We big-ringed the hill 15 times in this race according to my Garmin. I think I had about 10-12 in me. This tells me that I need to work on power efforts - hill intervals, short bursts - so I can use that speed in other races. I don't think my garage efforts are hard enough, so I need to either ride w/ the Tues group or go alone over on Erbes. So many nights I want to get home to see Jack, so this is a tough proposition sometimes that carries a big tradeoff.

I don't know where I finished among the Cat 5 guys, but I can't imagine all that many were still on the course at the end. Hopefully standings will be available by category.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Pedal to the Metal

Tonight was the usual Thursday night Camarillo Crit Practice, the first time in 2 weeks I've run all-out. This was good b/c I haven't raced in a while, and it offered a chance to do some real work on the bike. It was also a little easier tonight b/c most of the usual pros, etc. who put in a torturous pace were not there. The bad part was that it really short-changed my time w/ Jack. By the time I got home at 7:30, he was really tired and getting ready for bed. That didn't feel so good.

As for the training, I'm not sure if I've lost fitness or if I was fatigued from the sprint workout on Tuesday night. Tuesday wasn't that much of a workout, so I fear that I've lost some fitness. I managed to stick w/ the group, both at the front and back, for 48 of the 50 laps, but had to take a lap off for lap 49 b/c of a severe calf cramp. I get these sometimes during extended hard efforts, especially when I don't drink. I wonder if I have a bike fit problem, or if it's a pedal stroke problem. Someday I should investigate that. Overall, though, I felt OK in the 2nd half of the hour after I warmed up. It just takes so long to get the legs fully going, especially when I don't have a real warmup.

Ojai is next weekend, and I've planned to do the Piru TT on Sunday morning. That should be at least one final hard effort before the race. Maybe I can have something extra by then.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Absolute Power Corrupts...(not really)

I am struggling with power. Not of the Machiavellian sort, but of the athletic variety. I know I can put out pretty high power for a long time - 285 watts for an hour I'd bet - but I don't seem to have the ability to turn it up for short periods of time. I have a flat power curve it seems. I'm sure this is the result of the past 3 years of training I've done, which has been focused on long, constant efforts preparing for events like the Tour of the California Alps, aka the Death Ride. 129 miles, 15,000 feet of climbing at altitude was tough, and required many training miles at a constant pace. I'm having a hard time breaking out of that mold.

Presumably the only way to change this is by doing very anaerobic, sprint-based workouts or lifting weights. I'm doing the sprint workouts for now. Tonight's workout was very short - only 35 minutes - but it was very intense. 8 40s full sprints w/ 20s rest intervals. It was hard, and humbling. I can only average 400w for the last intervals. I feel like this should be higher, but I don't know how high, and I don't really know how to find out how high it should be. So for the time, I'm just working on doing as much as I can and hoping that I become stronger. I have noticed additional strength on longer rides (such as the Saturday rides I've described).

I've been a little sick lately, as our whole family (including Jack) have a slight cold. Until tonight I just didn't feel like training. I guess rest is good sometimes, and you have to listen to what the body is saying.