Friday, October 01, 2010

More Evidence That Time Trials are for Wussies

It’s true: This week I made a personal discovery that time trials are ideal for those who want to ride fast, but are too soft to suffer.  Now,  hold on a sec – before you girly-man time-trialers get your panties in a bunch.  let me clarify.  I am not saying that all time-trialers are wussies.  I am only saying that there is evidence that time-trials are good for wussies. (Note that the focus is on the time trial, not the time-trialer.) …and that girly-man time-trialers wear panties.  Of course, if you do not wear panties, you are unlikely to be a girly-man. (Again, watch for focus people.)  Anyway, let me tell you what happened.

Some of you may know that I have been taking part in a study at Stanford University which apparently is testing the effects of bicycling with one really cold hand.  Yep, you read that right.  But that is another story.  Anyway, to date I have gone through a VO2-max test, a Lactate Threshold test, and two time trials.  The interesting results of the time trials are what I want to share with you.

The time trials are completed indoors on a Velotron Dynafit Pro bike.  It is connected to a computer which measures heart rate, velotronpicbody core temperature, cadence, speed, and all the rest.  During the test blood is drawn every 5 minutes to measure blood lactate.   The lucky user (me) self-selects cadence and resistance, but does not get to see any of the vital stats except heart rate.  After the tests though, we do get to see the blood lactate readings. 

Knowing that pacing is critical to a good time trial,  during the first test I went out easy.  I rode a fast pace, but didn’t particularly strain myself.   About five minutes into it (at my first blood lactate draw), the tester says to me, “can you see your heart rate?”  It was at 140 bpm.  This is pretty darn low – about 75% of my max.  I took his statement to mean, “WTF.  You need to go harder, dude!”   I know by feel how hard I was working, and I was doing a good pace.  My plan was to slowly ramp it up.  Besides, he was making me ride for an hour on a stationary bike with no floor fan, a tube up my nose and down the back of my throat, all the while sticking me with needles.  I figured, I didn’t owe him anything. 

PleaseLetItEndTen minutes into it I was going hard.  At fifteen, I was going at what I felt was my full TT pace.  My heart rate was a higher than expected at 170 bpm (90% of max), and I really had to dig to keep the power and cadence steady.   It felt quite hard, but I was up for the punishment.  I maintained this pace by digging whenever I needed to, and drinking whenever possible.  I wanted to quit on a few occasions, but instead I cut the resistance back just enough so I could continue a consistent cadence.  My heart rate was pretty steady at 172-175 bpm for the last 30 minutes.  It was all I had, but I finished in 59:08.  I was cooked (literally), and quickly got to the job of replenishing the 3 pounds of water I had lost during that hour.  

Looking back on day one’s blood lactate measurement, I noted that I actually had started pretty hard.  Despite showing a relatively low heart rate, by minute ten and fifteen I was at 6 mmol/l.  This is above what I would expect, and beyond what I could sustain.  Over the whole test, I averaged about 5 mmol/l, which appears to be consistent with the previous week’s lactate threshold test.

Test two was going to be a different story though.  I was a bit tired, and did not feel like suffering.  Besides, my blood lactate levels showed that I went out too hard, so today I was going even easier.  This day, the first 10 minutes were around 140 heart rate, the next ten around 160, and I was at 170 by minute 30.  Note that I never increased my resistance or cadence.  I went out at a reasonable pace, and just held it there.  Over time, my heart rate creeped up and my perceived effort increased.  Although I was going good, I never felt like I was drilling it.  I never “red-lined,” or otherwise had to dig deep.  I just rode it.  I should note that around minute 45, I felt sick to my stomach.  It could have been dehydration, but I was also acutely aware of that stupid temperature gauge shoved up my nose tickling the insides of my stomach.  I pressed on nonetheless.

I finished in 55:11.  Four minutes faster than the previous week!  If you know time trials, you know that four minutes is a huge improvement.  My blood lactate showed that I was at 3.5 at minute 5, and about 4 to 4.5 the rest of the ride.

So what did I learn? 

  1. Do not set the pace based on a single heart rate.  
  2. Don’t go over your Lactate Threshold, ever.
  3. To be fast over 60 minutes, don’t strain yourself.  Ride like you want to get there fast, but not like you really want to get there fast.

Now that you know the details, let’s go back to where we were at the beginning of this blog.  Remember back when you were pissed off at me for all those things I said, that I really didn’t say?  Well, now you know why I said that there was evidence that time trials are for wussies.  If you happen to be a wussy and are genetically gifted, then you probably love time trials.  You probably even ride them faster than the “hard men,” because while they are pouring their guts out, you are riding easy and whining, “…but it just hurts too much when I go harder.” 

Saturday, July 25, 2009

NCNCA Masters Championships Road Race - Someone have a spare shoe?

Race: NCNCA Masters Championships Road Race

Imagine racing with one broken cleat, yet finishing your best ever. Check it out…

Representing the San Jose Bike Club in the 40+ race was Chris Wire and I. Chris’ job was to keep an eye on the strongmen, and mine was to help where I can. Unfortunately, within the first 4 miles my right cleat broke. Why couldn’t this happen during my warm-up? Why not during training? Ugh. 95 degrees, no shade and 52 miles (5 laps) left to go.

First time up the main climb, my right foot popped out of pedal and slammed my leg. Ouch. Imagine me trying to power climb without standing up. You guessed it, back I drifted. I struggled to stay connected while the field split apart. The field was immediately whittled down to 21. I was number 21.

The attacks came and came. I could not respond at all. My foot was flying out of the pedal, my crank hitting my leg, and my attitude getting worse and worse. Luckily, about nine studs take off (including Chris) in little groups, which leaves 12 guys for me to deal with. I am convinced I cannot finish with a broken cleat, so at the feed zone I yell to Laura, “Right Shoe!” I actually had a long description to give her on what the problem was, and where to find the shoe, but only had enough time to get two words out.

Second time up the climb I get dropped with two others but chase and chase. I cannot stand up at all now and am starting to whine like a baby.

At the feed, Jeremy Wire gives me a life-saving hand up of water (It is so freaking hot I am drinking almost 2 bottles every 1/2 hour!), and Laura gives me a race-saving hand up of a shoe. How cool is that?! Shoe goes directly in my mouth while I try and figure out how to switch them. It hurt a bit to pedal barefoot on Speedplay pedals while the other guys continued the chase but I was able to hang on. I toss the broken shoe.

We finally catch on along the run-in to the third climb. Four more guys are off the back of our pack. Now we are down to eight guys, and racing for tenth place. Third and fourth climbs are fine. I can now stand up, accelerate at will, and am feeling OK despite the heat. I can tell at least 6 or 7 guys are really suffering. I am even able to keep up with Dominic Giampaolo (Alto Velo), who is a great climber and has always torn me inside out.

On the fifth lap, we catch two guys who have fallen back. Our field is up to ten and we are racing for eighth place. This is the best situation I have ever been in at this race. Jeremy and Laura continued their hand ups and I keep drinking and pouring water on myself.

I am feeling fine. I go hard on the last climb.

Two Zenn Racing Team guys go with me. Chris Ott and Scott Fonseca. Scott drops me and I drop Chris. The remaining field is far back. Scott solo’s in the last 5 miles for 8th, while I solo in for 9th. Tired, but really satisfied!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Panoche Road Race

Panoche was quite an experience!  It started hot, and then got hotter.  Word is that it ranged anywhere from 100 to 107 on the pavement.  Totally insane. 

Greg Bloom announced before the race, “We have a follow car.  One of you is going to crack today.  When that happens we can pick you up.  Do not push yourself into heat exhaustion.  Pull over and as a reward you get to ride in air conditioned car!”  Great announcement, and definitely true.

I rode the race in the E3s.  We did the 67 mile race.  That means 3.5 hours in the heat.  (Perfect for barbequing ribs.  That long, and the meat just falls off the bone.)

Normally the crosswind section is where the race shatters.  Today though, there was little wind, so it wasn’t hard.  Since in the E3s everyone is closely matched, we had the entire field still present at the turnaround.  I decided to make a move.  This was probably my only good chance. There was one guy off the front about 100 yards.  This guy was a hammer, so I decided to bridge to him on the climb just past the turnaround.  I made it across, but so did 10 others.  This is where I started to feel the first indications of falling apart.  Nothing serious; just a slight shortness of breath, and a general feeling of weakness.  My real concern was that this was happening with 33 miles left to ride.  

The 12 of us started pacelining to keep the field broken apart.  After about 5 minutes I couldn’t help out.  I was hyperventilating and could feel my heart pounding.  What the hell is happening?!  I dumped water on my head and shoulders and drank some more.  (I had been doing this all day, but needed it again.)  I sat in.  15 minutes later, I had a runner’s cramp (you know that stitch in your side).  I couldn’t do anything to deal with any attacks.  I was just trying to hang on the back and make it home.  Then the attacks started in earnest.

The spirit was willing to chase, but the flesh was weak.  This is something I had never experienced before.  Normally when I crack, my mind makes me WANT to quit.  This time I wanted to ride, but just couldn’t.  Every time I put power down, my lungs felt shallow, I would have this overwhelming sense of “stop pedaling!” and sometimes I actually did!  This is totally out of character for me, but I simply could do nothing more than ride tempo.  Within a few attacks 5 guys got away: one off the front, and four chasers.

The remaining 7 guys completely fell apart.  One by one people were packing it in.  I ended up a solo chaser of the group of four away.  They remained about 100 meters in front of me.  I kept telling myself, “Just catch them, and you get a free ride home.  If you don’t catch them, then you have to ride it all solo.”   This was great motivation because by this point I didn’t care that I was going to get a top 10.  All I wanted to do was get home.

At the last feed zone, I was within 50 meters of them.  Then, one guy looked back and saw me.  Just what I didn’t want.  The four chatted, decided to work together better, and in no time they were gone.   I continued.  I had to change my self-talk to keep the legs moving.   Luckily, I was eventually caught by two guys.  Keith Jordon and Dave Parrish.  We were just riding to finish without being caught by anyone else.  Dave fell apart and dropped off.  Keith and I reluctantly continued.  We caught one of four chasers and went by so fast he couldn’t get on.  It was just Keith and I going for 5th and 6th.

Keith ran out of water. I had 2 swallows left. We figured we were only a few miles from the finish, so he took one, and I the other.   A mile or two later we see the 10k sign.  F#@k! F!, F!, F!, F!, F!  We both were just hating life at this point, and the last thing we wanted to see was that we had another six miles to go.   Six miles might not seem like much, but it felt like the straw that broke the camel’s back.  When we finally rolled across the finish Keith gave me 5th (what a guy!) and I rode right to the water station!

I drank water, but was feeling sick to my stomach.  I drank slowly and went to the car for some much needed air conditioning.  I went back to the feed station for a snack and started feeling woozy and a little dizzy.  I was in a bad spot.  I sat in the shade and recovered to a manageable condition within 15 minutes.   Once my faculties returned I noticed that the consensus of the racers was that today was definitely the hardest race this year.