December 20, 2012

Oh Fitness, Where Art Thou?

I've got a really bad trend going...let's call it the ebb and flow of fitness. For the fourth year in five my fitness has ranged far too wide during the course of a year. If a Chronic Training Load above 75 TSS/day is considered the cross over point of 'real' fitness then I've managed only a few scant months of such over the last 60 months. I'll admit that I have a pretty good excuse for the loss of 2012 fitness, but still it's a bit disconcerting when you strive to be your best and it's constantly transient. First let's look at training volume over the past five years:


2008 is the largest at 390 hours for the year - about 33 hours per month, 2010 the lowest at a mere 243 hours, or just over 20 hours per month. The last 2 years are very, eerily, similar on a host of fronts. I don't know if I can hit 400 hours this coming year, but it is certainly a goal. Here is a look at my CTL track (blue line), with notes the last few years:
2012:
You can see the ramp rate jumps in May after a terrible spring. Peak 20m power is the highest I've tested since 2008 at 361W for 20m. CTL is also at the highest point since I started training consistently with power at a peak of 90 TSS/day in mid September just before 'Cross Vegas.

2011:
A slightly longer runnup to high CTL - peaking at 88 TSS/d in late August - had me better prepared for the CX season than in either 2010 or 2009. The fact that CTL dropped so readily in the months of the season illustrates the same lack of training consistency that is my unfortunate habit. Peak 20m values for the year

2010:

Peak value for CTL was only 64, again in late summer. Not sure why the bottom fell out of my early spring, but the fact that peak CTL was only 64 says I was pretty busy with the rest of my life this year.

2009:

This was one of the better years with regard to consistency of training after September 1st. Peak CTL was 74 in early August, but didn't plummet until the end of November. Instead it approximated the kind of gradual drop in CTL that would normally accompany a block of racing. 20m best was actually from a race in November.

2008:

Certainly a different look to the season. Peak CTL of 83 was in early May rather than late summer. This was the first season of Sterling 'Cross and CTL stayed high (well, sorta) thru the season, varying only 10 points from September to the end of November.

So what is the take away from all of this? Essentially it's that consistency is the most important part of fitness - and I'm pretty mediocre at consistency. Life has a funny way of interrupting training! Will 2013 be any better? Given a new situation I am optimistic...

October 15, 2012

Euro-Cross 2012 (so far...)

GP Neerpelt: September 29th


GP Kalmthout September 30th
Superprestige Ruddervoorde: October 7th
GP Mario De Clerc: October 14th

August 27, 2012

Playing With Numbers....


Montebello is a sweet little climb near my house that has a couple of steep pitches, it’s a favorite.  I use it pretty regularly for what I call 3-peats, 3 times to the school (2 miles up),  usually in the 13-15 minute range.  Today I didn’t want to ‘hit out’ super hard…hoping to keep good form away a bit longer before my annual implosion, so I decided to do a little experiment.  My current FTP is set at 320W, so I thought I’d see the difference in pacing a 320W effort on three trials. First I did the climb at 320W aveage. Then I did it again at a 320W average, but did the first 5 minutes at 10% over (352W) and gradually lost average power the rest of the climb as close to 1 watt at a time as I could. Finally, I tackled the climb at 10% under FTP (288W) for the first five minutes and then tried to raise my average back to FTP over the remainder of the climb in 1 watt increments. Scientific? No, not really…but let’s see what we got anyway:


320W Steady
320W First 5m 110%
320W First 5m 90%
Time
15:36
15:44
15:28
Average Watts
320
321
321
Normalized Watts
323
323
324
Kilojoules
300
303
298
TSS (Intensity Factor)
26.4 (1.008)
26.7 (1.008)
26.4 (1.00)
VI
1.01
1
1.01



Very interesting…the fastest was the 5m @ 290W start, but let’s see what else stands out...

Here are the three efforts laid out together:
yellow @ 320W, red @ 320W+10% and green @320W-10%:

Recall that green was a steady push from 5:00 on and you can see the slight uptick in power (top graph) and cadence (lower graph). I like to look for landmarks in the files as time stamp reference points. For example in the first 5:00 the file shows a noticeable jump in cadence at around 3:00 –  4:00…this is where the course flattens out for a bit and you can see that the second effort (+10%) moved to both a higher cadence overall and a bit earlier than the other two. In contrast the third effort (-10%) had a much lower cadence in those first few minutes (closer to 40RPM) as I had to try and keep average watts down, so the stair step of cadence comes nearly a minute later, and the power remains well below the other two at all points.




Moving a bit farther up there is a final ramp that shows up nicely. On the first run it is about  1:30 @ 350W and 71rpm:

On the2nd run it is closer to 1:39 @ 302W and 65rpm as I tried to keep the average at 320W for the whole interval.

On the 3rd pass I am still chasing the 320W average a little bit (started the final climb at ~317W), but had to be careful to not go too hard. In the end that got me to the top in 1:22 @ 359W and 72rpm, very similar to the first pass, so why the 9s second difference in time? Entry speed.


You can see the differences in speed over the last 6:00 of the climb in the graph below. It’s pretty easy to reference landmarks on each and you can see that the final pass was faster in almost every area over the final minutes as I was both chasing the targeted 320W average and covering more ground. The first landmark is the obvious bump in speed around 6:00. The red represents the +10% pace, so I arrived at this ‘flat’ section about 20 seconds faster than the first pass and about 35s faster than the final run. By the second speed surge at around 9:00 the gap is down to about 5-8 seconds over the first pass, but still hovers near 35 seconds to the final run. Finally by the third speed surge, about 11:30 in, the final effort is starting to close the gap, down to about 15 seconds. Note that the final 0.22 miles were done at 9.2 mph (1st pass), 8.2 mph on the second and 10mph for the third pass. In the five seconds before the final surge I averaged 19.7 on the third interval, but only 18.5 on the second, and a modest 17.3 mph on the first. This section is flat to slightly downhill, offering a small respite before the final surge if needed, or a chance to make up some time if you can.


For comparison let’s look at my fastest time up Montebello, a 13:01 effort that averaged 357W (I was about 7 pounds lighter too!).  The five seconds before the final surge only averaged 16.4mph, but the final surge was done in 1:04 at 473Wavg. The full climb is demonstrably more impressive all around when looked at side by side with these three...
Power:

Speed:

Guess I need to lose some weight and ride harder!

UPDATE: A friend asked a couple of good questions about the climb itself and my efforts relative to the grade, so here is some additional information on the climb - the full climb is just over five miles (5.3) and averages 'only' 6.9%




But I only went to the school:  


Info and the gradient graphs from a really great site:


Here is the raw data:

Raw Data:

Dist    Grade   Alti.   Location
----    -----   ------  --------
0.00    15% 550 start - Stevens Canyon Road
0.01 12% 555
0.04 10% 570
0.07 10% 580
0.10 11% 600
0.14  4% 620 Brookside Stables - left turn
0.16  9% 630
0.18 10% 640
0.22 12% 660
0.25 10%  680
0.28 12% 690
0.30 12% 700
0.33 10% 720
0.35  7% 730
0.38  6% 740
0.41  8% 750
0.44 8.5% 760
0.46 4.5% 770
0.50 6% 780
0.52 6% 790
0.54 8% 795
0.57 8.5% 810
0.59 9% 820
0.63 13% 840
0.66 11% 855
0.69 8.5% 870
0.71 12% 880
0.72 12% 890 Peacock Court
0.75 12% 905
0.77 10% 920
0.80  5% 930
0.84 5.5% 935
0.86 9% 940
0.90 9% 970
0.93 6% 980
0.96 10% 990
0.99 13% 1010
1.02 14% 1030
1.05 14% 1050
1.07 16% 1060
1.08 12% 1070
1.10  8% 1080
1.12  6% 1090
1.15 5.5% 1100
1.18 8% 1110
1.20 11.5% 1120
1.23 9.5% 1130
1.27 8% 1150
1.35 7% 1180
1.38 8% 1190
1.41 10% 1200
1.44 11% 1220
1.47 8% 1240
1.49 4% 1240
1.52 11% 1250
1.56 11.5% 1270
1.60 10% 1295 View
1.65 10% 1310
1.68 8% 1335
1.73 9% 1350
1.75 7% 1360 Pichotti home
1.78 1% 1370
1.81 -2.5% 1370
1.83 0% 1370
1.85 8% 1380
1.87 12.5% 1390
1.89 9% 1400
1.92 9.5% 1410
1.94 8% 1425
1.97 6% 1430
1.99 8% 1440
2.03 10% 1455
2.05 8% 1465
2.07 1% 1470 Montebello School















June 22, 2012

Sprint Technique

One of the best things ever is when a couple of sprinters, should I quotes that(?), "sprinters" get in a huff off. It happens every few months on a blog I follow and it's a riot every time. Thanks for the entertainment, did you ever decide who was the fastest Cat 4 world threat?

Alas, while sprinting may come down to hubris and elbows, in the end technique trumps the day.

Good sprint drills are ones that challenge you to deliver power in a variety of ways.  Before I knew much about power as a training tool I wrote an article about delivering power that is an interesting perspective in the discussion of technique. The focus was on technique and rider bike connectivity rather than watts production - and although incomplete for not discussing the high cadence end of the equation, I've posted it below...

First a sample workout that you might like:

FTP Coastdowns - As easy as it sounds...ride 2:00 at your Threshold Power with your average power screen visible and intervals view on. After 2:00 at FTP soft pedal and coast your AVERAGE power down 10Watts then SPRINT it back up to the FTP average and repeat the 10W Loss/Sprint sequence for an additional 8 minutes (10 minutes total on interval). Rest 6-8 minutes between and repeat. Do 2-3 reps the first week and add a rep or additional time to the interval each week. Here are a few graphs that break it down a bit:
1. Full Interval - 1h16m at 0.94 IF (288Wnorm/FTP 300) - you can see the 2:00 start off interval each time and the high variability of efforts. VI was 1.3 for this workout - not quite steady state, yet a circa threshold effort for the duration


2. Interval Detail:
10:00 @ 1.10 / 1.03 VI / 88rpm avg overall

3 Individual Effort Detail
Lots of short and crisp efforts in the 12 - 15s range, and a nice block of 1:20 averaging 341 @ 96rpm early in the interval when power spikes higher and return-to-average times are shorter. As the interval continues the peak power values drop, the efforts take longer to return to FTP:



Throwing those efforts all together we get a quadrant analysis that looks like the one below and reflects the Neuromuscular/Quadrant 1 inclination of the efforts, with a solid foundation of Type II muscle fiber recruitment in Quadrant 2:



Thanks for reading...the reward is my 1998 Intro To Power...

POWER! It means different things to different people, but rest assured if you want to be a better cyclist you
need to have more power. Yes, endurance work, planned recovery, lactic acid work, and VO2max efforts are all important components of a complete training program, but in the end power is what drives the bike forward. In assessing your power you must ask yourself these questions:
1. How much power do I have? We offer a couple of otions to assess your current power
2. Where is my power best? Flats? Steep climbs? Downhill at high rpms?
3. Where is my power worst? Focus on improving these areas first
4. How do I get more? Read on faithful scribe...

Watch top World Cup riders in both Cross Country and Downhill. They rely on and deliver power with
amazing grace and blistering efficiency. They apply power throughout the pedal stroke, at all different RPM’s and across all conditions. They have mastered the technique with brutal effects. To help you develop this type of focus try these three easily adaptable techniques:
*Note: If you haven’t done the requisite base training then don’t attack power efforts with too much vigor in the early season or you will pay for it through injuries and overtraining.

  1. Big Gear Efforts: Riding a big gear at high RPM is a great way to increase power. First, get comfortable turning a big gear at low RPM’s. Try 50-65RPM in your largest or second largest gear for 2 minutes. Focus on applying pressure throughout the pedal stroke in a smooth and circular manner; literally pedal circles. These efforts help you improve your muscle fiber recruitment and increase the total number of muscle fibers involved in each effort, making your pedal stroke more efficient. Once you’ve developed base level competency at low RPM, it’s time to work with higher RPM efforts. Start with 30 second to 1 minute efforts at 80-90 RPM (RPM efficiency varies from rider to rider but is usually highest around 90 RPM). Use manageable gears to begin with (53x19 road, 46 or 48x17 MTB) and work up from there. Spend a few weeks adapting to this new form of training and begin increasing the duration of your efforts. You only want to attempt focused power intervals 1x per week, although you can incorporate power into much of your regular riding too.
  2. Rider/Bike Connectivity: This is the relationship between you and your bike. Sorry, but you won’t need to buy it new tires and a bell to get it. What you need to do is ride your bike. Learn how it reacts to your inputs and commands. Practice riding your bike with little or no upper body movement. Watch your favorite professionals, emulate their strengths and overcome your weaknesses. When climbing click up one gear before you stand, this helps you maintain the same rhythm and speed. Practice riding wheelies, jumping objects and skidding the front and rear tires (yes, you can skid the front tire). All of these techniques will make your application of power more supple and responsive. Get to know your bike and feel you are part of the same symbiotic relationship, because you are.
  1. Ride with Stronger Cyclists: If you can’t find anyone to ride with who really pushes you, get out and broaden you circle of riding partners! Seriously though, riding with people stronger than you helps develop power across a spectrum of conditions and tactical situations. Hard accelerations uphill, long gear wind-ups for the finish line, sprints to single track, all of these tax your power systems in different ways. When you’re with stronger riders, attack them! Don’t be afraid to go hard because you might “blow up.” What’s the worst that can happen? You blow up, get dropped and have to ride the rest of the 50 miles home into a fierce headwind by yourself? Hey, great opportunity to work on your low RPM power!



That's It For Now!



June 05, 2012

H.I.T.oo Early

H.I.T. - a current buzzword for lighting it up....High Intensity Training is all the rage! It seems that most everyone has a workout or class that is HIT...and given the nature of exercise physiology one must ask why?

What's the nature of physiology? Well, high intensity - anaerobic (despite the misnomer) efforts are produced via fairly straight forward pathways..namely the ATP-PC system (very short term) and Glycolysis (up to several minutes)...these capabilities - capacities, are the result of developing the infrastructure needed to support them whether by volume of 'stuff' that facilitates energy production or the aparatii that allows sufficient recovery, neither of which I have currently.

As I have both terrible fitness and occasionally surprising power on rides during the last month or so, it seemed like a terrible idea to do a HIT workout on Thursday, but I did it anyway as I was riding with a client and it was on his schedule. The workout is called FTP Coastdowns and it consists of riding 2:00 averaging FTP and then letting that rolling average drop 10 watts or so by softpedaling for 10-20 seconds...then sprinting the average back up to FTP before letting it again drop 10W...and repeating for 8-12 minutes total interval time. Rest intervals should be at least 1:1, but we cut it short a little...anyway, here is what the workout looks like in both macro and up-close views:

Close up of a coast down - 2:00 at FTP'ish (in this case 330W - which is really about 110% of my current FTP) followed by a block of efforts between 5 and 15 seconds at between 400 - 880 watts...usually with about 17-20 seconds at ~180 Watts for recovery.

The upside is that I could do 7'ish minutes of it..the downside is that it was a 10-12 minute interval, and I was DONE by the third block! That I could consistently turn out 5-15s efforts at better than 500W is probably more about Type II muscle mass and genetics than training - but I'll be curious to see what I can do when true fitness returns. True fitness requires taking the time to actually build those systems mentioned above...so that is my goal these next months, but I can't say I'll swear off the hard stuff completely. Here is the workout macro view - 34 efforts like the ones above:


Would I improve by doing just these types of efforts - or doing more of them..probably, but my hypothesis is that I'd plateau much earlier than if I take the time to build a more efficient engine and improve my overall endurance and capacity. Guess we'll see. I need to do some more reading to better understand how this all falls together...


May 26, 2012

Relative Fitness

We all know the value and import of 'fitness' - that undefined element of racing success that seems so transient and largely elusive depending on how much you ride. If you don't ride you don't have much capacity, but lots of freshness...if you ride a lot you have capacity, but little freshness...what power types call ones training stress balance....and while I appreciate the essence of it, I have of late been a bit perplexed by its application...

I always consider 300W to be a decent reference point of where I'm at. If 300 is easy to hold I'm probably doing ok in my progress, but I don't do too many full hours at 300W, and have only done a 'best' 60m at about 326Wnormalized - or about 4.3W/Kg. I've done much better on 20m or so...up to about a 4.65W/kg (man do I want to see 5W/Kg sometime). Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, after a solid stint of not riding - I did an hour of power at 307Wnormalized, which was very suprising since I had no real fitness, freshness, or capacity to speak of - then again that's not too bad for having a TOTAL of 29 hours of training in April and May, so what gives?

What allows for a baseline of relative fitness that is roughly 88% of an all time best*? The first step was validating the power numbers were ok....so I opened the file and hand edited it..plus I'd calibrated it mid-ride as well, so I feel pretty confident. I think a bigger question is the speed of degradation of ones fitness...without this getting too far into the article format here are some points to ponder...

1. 5 weeks of detraining in swimmers showed a peak VO2 loss of 7% and a similar decrease in resting metabolic rate as well.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22027854
 2. The effects of detraining are less noticeable in long term athletes, and the return to 'fitness' is quicker too...sort of the 'once you've been there, it's easier to get back there" rule. I did find this interesting though - the long term benefits of doping (in this case steroids) as a permanent adaptation (and possible impact on doping jurisdiction:
http://www.doctorsolve.com/blog/2010/08/a-new-kind-of-muscle-memory.html


Ok, so the point of this post was to look at relative fitness - to that end I'd have to say that my sustained steady state fitness seems to have a fairly high basement - that is to say even when I don't train much I can still hit some pretty good numbers on steady state efforts. But, unfortunately, racing is often not about steady state fitness, it's about attack, assess, counter..and that requires the type of fitness that I do not have right now, and which is the kind of elusive that makes one wonder if 6-months will be enough (I doubt it)...

*sigh*
 


May 25, 2012

Is It Possible To Really "See" A Race?

Tomorrow is the Stelvio.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/damianmorysfotos/3856226767/in/photostream/ 

I'll be watching the race, trying to understand what they are doing, where they are on the climb, and just how hard it must be, but it struck me today that it's very difficult to really "see" the race - the camera shots are too close to get perspective most of the time, the gradients are deeply distorted on TV, and the seemingly endless parade of the peloton rolling along - Liquigas at the front this year - makes for monotonous viewing at times. So we are forced to balance between the minds eye, the camera shot and our best reference to that which we have ridden that might emulate...the closest I can think of is Super-Jamestown outside Boulder.

Here is the Stelvio profile:


http://www.climbbybike.com/profile.asp?Climbprofile=Passo-dello-Stelvio&MountainID=38

and here is a look at Super-Jamestown (albeit a bit less definitive):
From The Slipstream Sports Site
Here is another view of the main climb (up to the green marker):
MapMy Ride Search

The actual climb - from the turn off Hwy 36 - is about 15 miles and averages 4.5% to Jamestown and 8.5% for SuperJames, so it's not nearly as steep on average, but there are sections on Super that approach 15%, and the start elevation is almost about 1500 feet higher in Colorado.  By rise over run simple calculation that puts SuperJames at only 3.5% and the Stelvio at 7.5%! Having ridden SuperJames a bunch when I lived there it was always a BIG challenge - but I'd love to go back and ride it again after 15 years in California where 8-15% grades are far more common (although decidedly shorter!). So that helps with perspective a bit...but then you just look at this to get an idea - this is the Bormio side I think:

http://www.redlineblog.com/top-gears-worlds-best-driving-road-in-detail/ 

A footnote: I'm trying to give credit to the original images and sites I use by linking to them directly and referencing their site as the caption. I hope this suffices for now as I'm still transitioning into a 'formal' approach to this..




May 24, 2012

US PRO - The Wayward Championship

Check The US Pro Cycling Jersey Site

Since time began...or at least since 1985 the U.S. has chosen their National Champions in stark contrast to most of the rest of the World. While all of Europe holds their National Championships on the same weekend - not coincidentally in the weeks before the Tour starts, the US has followed its own path. For years (1985 - 2005) we had CoreStates US Pro Championships in Philadelphia, but even that was a bit different since the race was open to any pro who wanted to race it - and almost as often than not a European rider won the day:

1985 - Eric Heiden
1986 - Thomas Prehn
1987 - Tom Schuler
1988 - Winner Roberto Gaggioli (ITA), US Champ Ron Keifel
1989 - Greg Oravetz
1990 - Paolo Cimini (ITA), US Champ Kurt Stockton
1991 - Michael Zanoli (NED),US Champ Davis Phinney
1992 - Bart Bowen
1993 - Lance Armstrong
1994 - Sean Yates (GBR), US Champ Steve Hegg
1995 - Norm Alvis
1996 - Eddy Gragus
1997 - Massamilliano Lelli (ITA), US Champ Bart Bown
1998 - George Hincapie
1999 - Jakob Pil (DEN), US Champ Mary Jemison
2000 - Henk Vogels (AUS), US Champ Fred Rodriguez
2001 - Fred Rodriguez
2002 - Mark Walters (CAN), US Champ Chann McRae
2003 - Stefano Zanini (ITA), US Champ Mark McCormack
2004 - Francisco Ventoso (ESP), US Champ Fred Rodriguez
2005 - Chris Wherry

In 2006 they moved the race to both the fall (?) and Greenville, South Carolina. They also made it a US only race finally.

2006 - George Hincapie
2007 - Levi Leipheimer
2008 - Tyler Hamilton
2009 - George Hincapie
2010 - Ben King
2011 - Matthew Busche
2012 - So, what does this year look like? Given the level of racing in the U.S. this year it's a pretty wide open event. Certainly the Euro-Based Americans have an advantage - they are still a tier above the domestic pro's, but there are some US riders who've shown some amazing talent the last few months, including Andrew Talansky, TJ Van Garderen, Chris Horner, and Tim Duggan with US riders like Ben Jaques-Maynes, Nate English, and  Chris Baldwin on my short list for the final selection...but we'll see come Monday.

For 2013 the Championships are moving to Chattanooga Tennessee and a local climb called "Lookout Mountain" - I've looked on Strava and there are a few options that could prove interesting, but I still have to wonder about Tennessee as a race venue. They have less than 2% of USAC membership, probably less than 0.5% but good stats are hard to find. TBRA - Tennessee Racing Assocation - shows typical race fields of 10-25 riders per category and events most weekends of the summer, so I'm not down on the race scene, I'm really not. I'm wondering about the community support more and my reference is the CX Masters Worlds in Louisville KY last year and CX Worlds coming up in January. Good venue by most accounts bu tjust NO presence to speak of. Industry didn't turn out, racers sorta turned out and crowds largely didn't. I'm afraid the same will happen in Chattanooga..but I hope not. I would like to see the race have the same kind of ambiance and excitement as at CX Nats in Golden Gate Park or the past few years in Bend, Oregon. Our National Championships deserve no less, so I'm crossing my fingers.

Get On Board...

Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, so why not...

Topic #1: Giro Weekend!

This is gonna be a fun weekend. Kicks off tomorrow with a saw-tooth tour of 198 kilometers. Ryder Hesjedal looks to be in a cat-bird position with nearly a minute on all the 'real' challengers - those who can throw down a decent time trial (with apologies to Purito Rodriguez) - a pretty nice place to be for someone who CAN Time Trial...but Ivan Basso can TT as well, lest you forget.
Then again, before we get to the TT....we get Saturdays fun.


The Giro has climbed the Pampeago climb several times - in fact they do it twice on this stage alone -  including a legendary ascent by Marco Pantani in 1999. In 2003 the race returned - this time Gilberto Simoni was putting his stamp on the race, while a much different Pantani labored up the slopes conceding just over 2 minutes (Video part 1, part 2, part 3)

After that, of course, there is the little issue of Saturday. 7 major climbs by my count, but they only classify 5. I think the real action starts on the penultimate climb the Motirolo, a legend in it's own right, as agressive riders a few minutes down like  Rigoberto Uran and Domenico Pozzovivo MUST try something daring and attack early. The Stelvio, by comparison, is much larger and more difficult...but the race has only used it 9 times and will be the third summit finish. It is important to note that this years race comes up the Bormio side...not the more famous Eastern route where all the pictures come from. Still resplendent in 40 hairpins, it's no day at the park, but is not quite as formidable.


Quite a difference to Sunday...


So who wins? My money is on Ryder....

May 18, 2012

Chip On The Shoulder, Calm In The Head

The talent in the pro peloton is an oft-discussed topic. Yep, there is A LOT of it! But there are a couple of things that don't get as much play, but that make such a HUGE difference in the long term success of pro's. Ok, there may be three things, but let's start with two...

Topic #1: Chip On The Shoulder - Racers race for a different reasons...but most everyone of them has some sort of chip on their shoulder. It may reside under the surface, but the drive to win comes from a place of internal upset - be it a slight in the past, family/personal experience or a personality trait...there is a reason Phil says the 'turn the pedals in anger'. I don't cast aspersions here, merely point to what I think is a deep internal drive that top riders seem to share, and I think that drive resides in both a quest to be the best and to make/prove a point. Doubt it? Look inside your motivations when racing.

Topic #2: Calm In The Head - Listen to interviews and you'll likely hear a fairly calm and collected assessment of the race to come, or just passed. Riders don't tend to get too worked up about stuff day to day...some ascribe this to fatigue (which may be true), but credit must also be given to general demeanor of the athletes when it comes to their job. While you, or most especially I, may get worked up at the impromptu flat, travel interruption, or race situation that doesn't go our way, pro's generally take a pretty philosophical attitude to these things. I think it's essential to be mostly level headed....



and consistency matters...viscious:




Of course a bit of enthusiasm always helps:



Sorry Adam...had to be done...


Topic #3: Iron In The Gut - This is actually the most important unknown talent, but my title block was getting too long. Pro riders MUST have an Iron stomach, it's a necessity. The amount of stuff they put thru their bodies is simply amazing - fear inducing actually. Let's just shake out some numbers real quick.

First there is the water: 8-10 Bottles PER DAY - On the bike! Plus another couple of bottles post race, then post race recovery mix, then more water with dinner - lots of water! at 20oz per bottle it gets to be over 3 GALLONS pretty quickly (64oz to a Gallon or something right?).

Next we have food: There are lots of discussions about how many calories a day the racing cyclist burns, but let's put it in a couple of understandable formats. First, let's baseline at 5000 calories a day for a race like the Tour of California. It's an oft cited number, but not far off and we can use both Marc DeMaar and Luke Bobridge as our references here - DeMaar did 3935KJ's for the stage, Bobridge 4468KJ's (It's farily common to equate KJ"s to Kcal -calories). This doesn't include their BMR (basal metabolic rate), so the 5000 calories guess is pretty good. In simple terms:

A Big Mac has 550 calories (with almost half of those coming from fat!)...so you're gonna need 9 Big Macs each day. Not health enough? Ok, Chicken is healthy so let's get some Nuggets! at 190 calories for 4 Nuggets - about 47 per Nugget - you'll need about 106 Nuggets each day.

Healthier still?

Ok, cyclists are famous for their pasta consumption. WikiAnswers tells me there are 220 calories in a cup of Spaghetti. Why, that's only 22 cups of Spaghetti...a pittance! But of course they eat many of their calories on the bike, let's say 250/hr based on absorption rates and how much the stomach can process (60g is a good baseline), so they get another 1250 calories from on bike nutrition in a five hour stage. Gels are typically in the range of 100-110 calories each, so let's call it a dozen on the bike, or if you want to be truly Machiavellian 50 gel packs for a full days nutrition,yum!

Ah, you're more of a liquid nutrition kind of rider, eh? Ok, Hammer Perpetum is about 130 calories per scoop - 38 scoops and you've got a day! Of course you have to add that to a liquid, most are using 3-4 scoops per bottle (9 bottles'ish), so you may never actually get out of the bathroom to race...but i think you get the point.

So what's the bottom line? Success in cycling requires talent and natural ability, but it also requires a good head on your shoulders, a stomach that won't quit and a desire to avenge whatever wrong motivates you...

May 17, 2012

Sticky Stupidity

Topic #1: Sticky Bottle Stupidity

Watching various live coverage over the last few months it's occurred to me time and again that the infamous sticky bottle has jumped the shark in relevance. Now, I'm not saying that getting an assist from time to time isn't acceptable, especially on climbs if one is truly fetching bottles and the like, but now we see riders coming back for a chat and getting said hard surge of asssistance for no reason at all. Perhaps the most flagrant example is when they take it even while sitting directly behind the lead commisaire's car...within meters of the field! Such was the situation today at the TOC, several times!

So what does the UCI say? Oddly, nothing specific in the technical guide for road racing, although there are some interesting tidbits like 2.3.030 - "The greasing of chains from a moving vehicle shall be forbidden." or 2.3.031 - No equipment for riders may be prepared or held ready outside the following vehicle. Persons riding in vehicles shall  ot reach or lean out." - but not much on Sticky Bottle Syndrome.

Speaking of Sticky Bottles....quick google search lead me to Sticky Bottle.com ...which is an Irish racing site that gives an almost admirable definition of it's name sake:


A stickybottle, put simply, is the knackered cyclist’s best friend. As a rider is being dropped from a group, the team manager or support worker in a following car holds a bottle out the window to hand it up. As the handover is taking place, the rider grabs the bottle tight, as does whoever is handing it up, enabling the rider get a good tow and push from momentum of the car. It’s known as a stickybottle because it appears neither the rider nor the person handing it up is able to take their hand off the bottle; it looks stuck to their hands. But please don’t try this at home. We’ve been slyly cheating this way all our lives; it takes a while to perfect.

I like that they refer to its application for a 'knackered' rider - and that seems somewhat reasonable..but somewhere it got lost in translation as it's now become derigeur for most every situation where a rider may be at the cars. So, who's to blame? I dunno, but I'm guessing it's with the Directors. Most are former riders who, having been on the edge innumerable times, may justify their actions as merely trying to help their riders stay in contention, but really in the classical application it's to try and gain an advatage, any advantage, that might pay off later, and in the modern iteration it seems merely a slap in the face of tradition and the rules.

So is it part of the tradtion - if I want to argue that, probably need some evidence right? There's a great scene in "Stars and Watercarriers" about twenty minutes in where a rider is dropping back to the medical car - a legitimate need certainly - except rather than grab the car and go for a ride, he rides along side and waits patiently for the ointment. This is followed by several scenes of riders in various states of conversation at team cars and none gets assistance. About 37 minutes into "Hell on Wheels" there is a segment about going back to the cars and you see a Saeco rider toting something like 14 bottles and he takes a couple of lingering holds, but it just seems different - and that's because the car doesn't jam on the gas to add a couple of miles an hour. Check it out from 36:00 on...



Contrast that with the coverage of late...grab a bottle and get a free acceleration! "But today's races are faster!"...uh, not that much, or really at all actually according to VeloFacts.com. (I may have a new favorite blog btw!)



So I'm going on the war path over Sticky Bottles...they've become almost as much an embarrassment as open jerseys...

more tomorrow...



May 15, 2012

Giro Stage 9 - What Really Happened

Todays Topic: Stage 9 Crash, What Really Happened

Lots of talk, analysisblather, and an admission on the Stage 9 crash...but let's look at it in detail.
Here is the video:


Pick up the action approaching 400m to go...the field is tight and fast, running from the right side barriers to those on the left, a natural inclination. Pozzato's lead out man is just about done and the scrum begins


At 400m we see Goss start to swing out in anticipation of the hairpin as Svein Tuft accelerates... 


but everyone else stays inside, clearly driving towards a late apex of a super-tight turn, not quite what you want to do. You can see the Tuft start to reposition outside, albeit a bit too late

meanwhile Bennati and Pozzato continue the inside line. Bennati is playing a good position game - in the video you can see Goss drops back behind Bennati as they start into the corner giving the advantage to Bennati, except for being too far inside to take the corner at full speed that is. This is when Pozzato starts to lay back a bit in order to change his line and get outside of Bennati to try and carry more speed thru the turn
and promptly runs square into Goss. Notice how Tuft and  Bennatti  are still out of position and hard on the brakes....













Clearly Pozzato put himself in a bad position - on the inside leading into a tight corner = no speed. I think  the fault lies with  Svein Tuft and  Bennati for running too long up the inside line - . Initially I faulted the finish recon - and that may be the case in the end, but Goss set up correctly while the others did not. Did he "see" the right line sooner? Doubtful as he was in the draft until 400m, then slipped right to set up the correct apex. The others either didn't get good recon, forgot what they'd been told, or simply mis-timed the corner. Unfortunately each of the protagonists, save Tuft, paid the price in the end...


May 14, 2012

Ah, It's Been Too Long

Since I had a good rant/post....so here goes

Today's Topic #1 - Bike Fit

First off....why does every shop and nearly every Johnny-Bike-Racer think they are a bike fitter? WTF is a bike fitter anyway? Someone who has taken a weekend course that gives you all the "right" angles and set ups? Better still..someone who 'knows a lot" about anatomy and biomechanics but hasn't bothered with an academic course on the subject?

Sure, I know it all boils down to a cash-center, what is it they call those...a revenue stream? Anyway...there is good money to be made on fittings, so that's why they are omni-present in the corner of nearly every local shop, but honest to god, I've heard some of the weakest arguments for bad choices, seen lots of questionable set ups on athletes who come in having already been "professionally" fit by someone else.

BTW... IT'S NOT A QUESTION OF PUTTING PEOPLE'S KNEES AT 30 DEGREES!

 Yep, there are a lot of heuristics that come into play, but lately I've been spending much of my of my time teaching people how to pedal correctly. By the way it's not based on this:
The myriad of problems this presents have been long discussed previously - as well as by me on facebook in a rant against the above pic awhile back...and I don't feel like finding the post again..so click the link and read up on it!

There are GREAT pratitioners - Curtis Cramblett has quite a reputation, Wade @ Spokesman in Santa Cruz does too. Ditto for Julie Bates at Roaring Mouse...and a few others I suppose. I'm not singling out any individuals for scorn...but really, why are you qualified*? Which brings me to...

Topic #2 - Props "Thanks to my coach! I couldn't have gotten here without your help and guidance, your friendship and cajoling!" or "Shout out to my coach, if you are looking for a good one...etc/blah/blah/blah"

I think I've gotten about four notes like that in the past near-decade of full time coaching . It's not that I'm seeking vanity and glory..but maybe just a little bit of props for whatever help I might have provided in getting the upgrade, the break through performance, or the big win.

I mean really....you'll ask for my help, pay me good money, endeavor to follow the well-crafted plan (with adjustments along the way), read my analysis and commentary - and then promptly develop amnesia that it wasn't your absolute talent and tenacity alone that won the day!

Then again...Maybe ego is ruling my world tonight and I just want people to like me!?

Which leads directly to

Topic #3 - The Cool Kid Contingent



My parents divorced when I was in fifth grade and I got myself into some trouble..couple of suspensions for fighting, enough that I squeaked thru to 6th mostly on the kindness of my teacher. I switched schools and suddenly got to re-invent the angry kid who fought a lot into the 'new' kid who ended up with lots of friends. I got to do it again in 7th grade, 9th grade and 10th grade too...always striving to be accepted and allowed.

Once life had settled in during H.S. I found myself friends with most everyone in school, but not necessarily one of the popular kids and that was great! I could talk to anyone, hang out with anyone and still maintain those crucial elements of status -whatever status a sixteen year old with a bike instead of a car might have. But that was sorta the point I think...I never really made it to the upper echelons of high school, or cycling..but I've always had good friends and enjoyed a certain entre thanks to some street cred. But the Cool Kid Contingent would never deign to let me hang for very long - in cycling or H.S. I'm not Rapha cool, Oakley cool, or Specialized cool..and while it bothers me a little sometimes - mostly when the CKC is on full flame of faux- awesomeness that repulses most  (and I'm still not worthy!) - I think I must fit a niche somewhere...The nice guy niche? The mediocre niche? The nearly-edgy niche?  I don't know...but I do like my Twin 6 stuff...just don't tell 'em or they may want it back!

*which may well beg the question "Why Are You Qualified?" - fair question...because I am, call me and we'll talk about it! Probably the Degree (even if it is a stupid BA!), the Anatomy, Physiology, Biomechanics, Exercise Physiology, Motor Learning, Motor Behavior and Graduate Courses, the continuing education and lifelong fascination with cycling are hints...

May 10, 2012

Belgian Training - Week 3

New format! Yep, weekly "Belgian" updates...no more of the pedestrian 'daily' stuff! We're real up in here and 'real' only happens every once in awhile.... Anyway - today I went on my mostly-weekly ride with a REALLY long time client, we'll call him JB...and JB likes to ride hard on Thursdays...so we do, except this year he's demonstrably stronger and I'm not..so I've had to suck wheel just to hang on for weeks at a time. Or worse..had to modify my effort and 'observe' what he was doing since what he was doing was riding away from me... Now this is all well and good...Jim has come a long way in the last few years and now boasts an FTP that is more than respectable...so he's earned the right to put the smack down on me as often as he can, but I'm a sensitive little thing and I don't like that he whips me about Unbeknownst to me - JB had recently gone from the Bay area to Santa Barbara on his annual 3-day soujourn....something like 95 miles on day 1, 150 on day 2 and a mere 100 on day 3...good ride, but tiring long story short - he was still a bit tired and since I'd taken yesterday off I was pretty fresh...hehehehe Today was over-unders - which was not on the training plan designed for me...but I thought i'd try to blow doors on some awesomeness for him. Hope he approves. Anyway it's about like this: 60m at 290/330W for Jim and, supposedly 270/315 for me since I figured I was about 290FTP...but I went a bit better than planned...
Yep - 307Wnormalized with the last 5+m at 335Wnorm...felt pretty good too, even as it felt horrible'ish Tomorrow we're back on it - more structured stuff from the coach, til he sees today's awesomeness and ramps me up...uh, maybe I shouldn't live off ego so much

Belgian Training - Day 14

but I'm getting tired of keeping track of whatever day it is.... So Tuesday I went riding with the HS MTB'ers...but first I did the workout prescribed to me - some 2 and 3 minute ME intervals at 285-295Watts...but I couldn't do it..so I did 'em at 310 instead... The ride was mellow..but way way hot! Ok, I'm switching to weeks now...

May 07, 2012

Belgian Training - Days 10, 11, 12 and 13

Pretty good run over the last few days...Friday off, rode with the Matadors on Saturday at Stafford Lake...that course was BUMPY! Then I popped over to China Camp for a ride: . That was a good day... Sunday i didn't ride, but Colin Marcroft pulled off a 3rd place in Junior Varsity for the season overall...so it was like a ride! Today - i commuted for 90m or so..then did nearly an hour at 270'ish watts...tired tonight! Slowly it may turn around...

May 04, 2012

Belgian Training - Day 9 Beastie Boys Edition

I talked to my new coach - all motivated now! Enough so that I went to bed by 10p and got my 7.5 hours.

And onto other stuff....

The Beastie Boys Adam Y died today. He was 47 and I am shocked! Haven't really followed the band over the last few years...didn't even know he had Cancer...but that doesn't change the seminal impact of the Beastie's on my life. I'm sure there are thousands of others, millions perhaps, for whom the Beastie Boys continually spoke an anthem that resonated...

Fight For Your Right....To Party! It was the embodiment of all that teen angst, rebellion and wild living for a high school kid in Colorado Springs - conservative central. I bought the album and proceeded to annoy my parents to no end, loudly, and from the basement. Yep, Licensed To ILL was a staple



Then they hit out with Paul's Boutique, which I liked but grew to LOVE over the next two decades...especially while living in Arizona in 1989 - riding and racing with lots of free time to rock out in the 1 room hovel I shared with a friend. I guess I got lucky because soon enough it was the only thing I listened to and "Licensed To Ill" started to look sophomoric (although I still listened to it a bunch). B-Boy Bouillabaisse has to be in my top 10!


Beastie Boys - B-Boy Bouillabaisse from oli_mac on Vimeo.


Check Your Head - with its reverb and feedback mixed cacophony..wasn't on my list at first...but I got lucky and found the bounty of the album eventually...probably thanks to long conversations with Mary Jane.


Ill Communication - what can you say? I think "Root Down" is my all time favorite song


Hello Nasty - well, they don't have "Dr Lee PhD" available on video..so we'll default to "Dedication" and this  sweet mash up: Sorry Gotta Click It - but worth it even if it's incomplete..


That was the last full album I bought..but I can assure you I'll be getting the others this weekend.

I can't begin to list the situations in which I've jammed Beasties....from bike rides to snow days, studying to partying it was a near constant companion throughout the 90's. Mix tapes for girlfriends, motivation for time trials. LOUD!

Thanks Beasties for it all...

May 03, 2012

Crashing

I've been watching YouTube lately and yesterday I ran across a host of crash videos, 'cause they're always fun right? I juest....Anyway, watching all these crashes - primarily cat 3,4 and 5 races ironically (or not), I've seen tons of guys - most of the guys - sprinting on their hoods, riding around on their hoods, generally demonstrating really mediocre technique! Examples you ask....

well, ok...

Exhibit #1:

Where to start...how about the tall guy who almost takes himself out crossing wheels on the straight away - that happens far too often. Then a little later THE SAME GUY dives WAY inside before the turn - then slams on the brakes - not because of the crash, but because of a bad angle into the turn...pretty much the only thing that saved him from crashing I guess...but that kid needs to work on his skills ALOT!

Whereas this guy had no chance, but can't really blame anyone but himself...


If you compare the two above with the Pro 1/2 field you'll notice they take a much different line out of the corner..the faster and safer line at that


But let'' wrap up today with a look at REAL hanlding from the 2012 World Keirin Champs..amazing skills!

May 02, 2012

Belgian Training - Day 8

Three slices of pizza and a Mountain Dew!

good day...

May 01, 2012

Belgian Training - Day 7

Today I actually rode my bicycle OUTDOORS for all of an hour and ten minutes!

Felt fat and slow...here's the 411:
Time: 1:09        TSS: 91      KJ's: 850 Best 60m effort was a paltry 223Watts on average...but a whopping 271W normalized! Must be the extra kilo's I'm toting around...


The real fun was the EMERGENCY STOP at the bottom of a 45mph descent. I'm ripping along at about 38mph into a R turn (yea, thru a stop sign)...and this JEEP decides to STOP dead in my way...

HARD SHUT DOWN...

managed to avoid him...we traded some shouts and blame..then we actually talked! Talked about whos fault (mine) and why we each decided what we did...it was pretty cool. Doug is a bus driver and good guy...cool '83 Scrambler that I didnt' run into. I wasn't scared, just agro for having to shut down so fast when I was cooking for that corner. Here's the screen shot from strava: well it's down at the moment and I'm impatient...so i'll post it up when its available.

A real bike ride, sweet

April 30, 2012

Trying Real Hard, Ringo...

WTF?

I lost a long term athlete today. That doesn't happen much and it stings a bit....I wasn't providing the level they expected, so after three plus years they are making a change. I can look at it a few ways...

1. Hurt - How could they? I'm a Level 1 coach, I write prescient articles on training, have lots of credentials and experience - I MUST be a great coach..how could they leave me? Where is the appreciation? Where is the thanks for the hours and hours of phone conversations or the support during their trying times? And of course they chose to leave while at a personal best in both body mass and fitness....why not go get a new coach and let them enjoy the benefits of my planning and commitment?
2. Relived - Whew, I don't have to endure any more of the grind. I don't have to stress over so much untapped potential, hear the excuses for why things didn't go as planned in ABC workout, or commiserate the never-ending struggle. It's one less thing on my already over-stacked plate, which is probably the main reason in the end...stretched to thin, if I'm...
3. Honest - I let them down. I'm hired to provide feedback and direction and I didn't do that very well over the last couple of months so it's completely understandable and mostly on me. Damn...
4. Hopeful - If I felt stale, certainly they did too...my hope is that they find a place where progress continues to rise and they can get what they are looking for. It's too hard a sport to carry a grudge against an athlete and friend. All the best!

Really it's all four...but I'm trying, I'm trying real hard...