Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Trust Me, It's Supposed to Hurt That Much

So, I survived our home race. Hosting a race is a lot of work - I came out of the weekend severely behind on my sleep. It's astonishing how much sleep deprivation impacts athletic performance.

The short version is I did okay in both the RR and the Crit - 14th in both, which was solidly middle of the pack. Both races were definitely educational!

What did I learn from the RR? The dynamics of riding in a large group (30+ riders) in a limited amount of space (yellow line rule) are totally different than anything I am used to. The amount of time end effort, both physical and mental, that you had to put into getting to the front of the pack were really surprising to me. Getting stuck at the back of the pack meant you were there for quite a while. If you were lucky, there was a turn that allowed you to move up as the group went around it. I spent most of my time near the middle or back of the pack - definitely not where I wanted to be.

In summary, the RR taught me that you really have to fight tooth and nail to stay at the front, and getting filtered back means there's no guarantee you'll ever see the front again. I need to work on my pack handling skills - I'm safe enough, but too conservative in seeing and grabbing spots.

The Criterium. Hoo boy. I did fine for most of the race - I was hurting, but sticking with the lead group until about 7 laps to go. At this point, I just ran out of aerobic gas and could not match the accelerations out of every corner. I eventually got spit off the back of the lead group (second time that's happened to me, ever) and finished with the second group of riders. Five minutes after the race, I was feeling fine and ready for more.

Lesson learned here is really simple: I have plenty of base, but not enough top end aerobic. Since I hate getting my ass kicked, I'm working on correcting this.

Today I did about 45 minutes on the trainer attempting to correct my high-end aerobic deficiencies. My main problem is I cannot recover from extremely high efforts (max. power) while still going hard (z4 = 170+ BPM). I did 1 minute at high power (170-180 BPM), then 1 minute at around 160 BPM, then repeated. I did one set of 4 or 5 reps, then recovered for 5 minutes, then did three more. My god do these little bastards hurt!

Since heart rate takes a while to come up to match the real effort level, I judged these intervals by the gearing I was using. For the "on" minute, I was in 53x14, and for the "off" minute, 53x19 (I think).

Anyway, we'll see how much of an improvement I get from these intervals. I will do them a couple more times before next weekend. Oh, and I'm also staying off the fixed gear - it's really hard on my legs when I'm trying to recover.

Friday, February 13, 2009

You've Got to Be Kidding Me...

While *trying* to re-dish my rear wheel this morning, I found this:

A hairline crack around one of the driveside spoke nipples. I just love finding this kind of shit the day before a race.

Long story short, I spent the better part of 7 hours today that I should have spent on homework running all over Raleigh and Cary finding a new set of wheels. I eventually ended up with a set of Mavic Aksium Race wheels. The downside: they're heavier than my cosmics by a noticeable amount.

Tell me again, why do I love bikes?

Here We Go...

Tomorrow is the first race of the collegiate season: the NCSU Wolfpack Classic. I've been kind of tapering the whole week - here are the rides I did:

Last Saturday: OCS speedway race - about 20 miles at high intensity.
Sunday: pre-rode the road course - 36 miles at low intensity.
Monday: penny lochmere loop at TT pace. Posted my fastest solo 25 mile average speed: 20.4 mph.
Tuesday: penny-lochmere again at recovery pace. Very windy.
Wednesday: tried to do hill repeats but discovered my legs were not up to it - I had been riding fixed to campus Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday - it's like resistance/strength training.
Thursday: mountain biking class, recovery pace
Friday: hopefully nothing :-)

In other news, I discovered my back wheel is out of dish. This explains some handling idiosyncracies, and also why I constantly feel like my handlebars are crooked. I'm going to correct this later today, and hopefully I don't FUBAR my wheel the day before a race.

Tomorrow morning we have to get up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 am to roll out at 5 am, to get there in time to set the race up. Ugh. And instead of mentally preparing for the race and resting, I'm going to be doing homework.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Speedway Race, take II

Today I did the OCS speedway race again.

As I said in my last post, I didn't ride much at all this week because the weather was so freaking awful - cold and blowing about 30 mph all the time. Just riding to class and back was miserable. So naturally by Wed. I was bouncing off the walls, as usual when I don't ride. I didn't get on the bike until Friday night, when I did about 40 minutes on the trainer. I felt pretty bad doing this - power was down, and I developed several stitches in my side. This worried me, because I never get stitches when I ride. So I stretched out really well afterwards and just hoped for the best.

Race day: got there and warmed up for an hour. Felt pretty good. Tried to put together a group that was willing to try and lap the field at the very beginning of the race. Got a couple people to sign on, but not the kind of horsepower I needed to make it work. They called us to the line before last week, so I wasn't fully warmed up. My mom came out to watch, which was nice.

Whistle blows, I hammer hard per the plan. We actually got about a 50 yard gap, thanks to Brian and Kai blocking, before they started closing, and that was that. I sat in and recovered for a while. I felt a stitch starting to develop; this took the edge off of my aerobic power all day, and I had to be a lot more conservative with how hard I went. Everyone was going a lot harder than last week because the weather was great - nearly 60 degrees.

The race was pretty uneventful until I locked handlebars with a UNC rider on the back stretch. I was shooting for a gap and didn't verbally warn him in time, and he moved over into me. We both said some choice expletives and sort of leaned hard into each other to keep ourselves upright. All around us the whole pack said a collective "Shit!" and scattered. My front wheel was hopping laterally and something was "pinging" the spokes as I fought the bars to keep the bike upright - this was pretty instinctive for me, so the rest of my brain was looking for a graceful way out. At one point I was 100% sure I was going to eat pavement because my front wheel hopped about 6 inches sideways. Walker said he was behind and to my left, and he was scared out his mind. Kai, who was further back, said my back wheel at one point lifted off the pavement about 6 inches, but I have no memory of this (but then again, I was a little preoccupied). Anyway, eventually we separarted and resumed racing.

Thinking back on it, I am surprised how little of an adrenaline rush there was - I was pretty calm throughout the whole thing. As soon as we got clear of each other I immediately went right back to racing - there was no pause to take a breath or steady my nerves, because they didn't need steadying.

I remember two distinct thoughts while fighting for dear life: one was, "I am sure as hell not going down and ruining my brand-new team kit!" The second was, "I don't want my mom to come watch me race and see me leave a bloody stain on this track!"

I still don't know how I got out of that in one piece. Every time I think of how close I came to seriously fucking myself up, I get giddy. What a great sport!

Towards the end, my positioning in the pack was terrible. I was way too far back with 5 to go. Even though I handled the accelerations fine, I couldn't get clear and get to the front in time. I finished 20th out of a 50 person field.