Monday, April 28, 2014

As the Raven Flies ... But Longer

This was the earliest I've raced a 40k (actually around 39.5k) and given that a lot of my training takes place on my commute to work, so no extended periods of threshold work, I wasn't sure how I would fair over the longer distance.

This course hasn't been used for about 9 years and I'd heard there were some bad sections of road on the course. Having arrived a little early, I decided to drive the course to see what to expect. At first I was more interested in the road conditions, but as I got into the hilly part of the course my mind turned to the high speeds and corners on some of the downhills.

Overall ... road conditions were not an issue, but I knew there were sections where 50+ mph in the aero bars were possible, which opens up a new set of "Oh Crap" issues.

The race was hilly with approximately 1500 feet of climbing and there were very few flat sections on the course. The longest climb was a little over a mile long with sections over 7%. Some people brought their road bikes thinking they would be faster due to the amount of climbing, but overall there were only a few small sections where using the horns was faster.

The race started with a nice 10-15 mph headwind ... so the out section was a little slower, but the wind was a little swirly causing sections of crosswinds and blowing people around on the road. It was more unsettling than anything, but you could feel it. On a couple of the downhills, I could feel the wind pulling on my helmet and if it were not strapped on, would have been pulled off!

With that said ... on the course, I was pretty accurate about speeds ... my top speed was 50.8 mph and I hit 50 mph a couple of times on the course, though I never had to get out of the aero bars on the descents.

Overall, I felt pretty good for the length of the course and was climbing a little better than expected finishing with an overall time of 1 hour and 5 seconds ... which was fast enough to win my class and have the 2nd fastest time overall on the day.

Losing weight has helped a lot with my climbing ... I weighed in at 189 pounds, at wake up, Saturday morning and saw 186 after my ride yesterday. I'm hoping to continue the weight loss and get into the mid 170's for the upcoming hill climbs. The next two TT cup races are hill climbs and I know I'll need to drop as much weight as possible before those.

The next race is the TTT, which I'm hoping we can put together a team for, which right now is looking "Iffy" ... we should be able to put together a winning CAT 3 team, but the number of people interested in racing or wanting to race in other races that weekend makes it difficult to get 3 other fast guys with TT bikes. Hopefully we can put something together because I know we will have a great shot at winning if we do.

If we can't ... my next race won't be until June unless I decide on a road race between now and then.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PIR TT - First win of the season

This past Sunday was the PIR TT ... it's about 11.5 miles in distance (6 laps around the PIR auto race track). I love racing this course because it has great pavement, no traffic and some technical aspects with corners but you can stay in your aero bars during the whole race.

I wasn't sure what to expect this year from my legs since I've been working on losing weight more than anything recently and have now dropped about 26 pounds since the 2nd week of February, down to 190 this week. I've been doing one hard day of commuting intervals per week where I'm doing threshold work almost the entire way in and home on my commute ... the only time I'm not at threshold is slowing down for lights. Most of the time I average 280-290 watts for the commute and it gives me 2.5 hours of hard riding time early/mid week. The other commutes are at recovery or endurance pace.

Leading up to the race I basically had a rest week other than commuting intervals on Wednesday and a moderate ride on Thursday ... Monday/Tuesday/Friday/Saturday were spent off the bike. So my legs could either be well rested or not respond from lack of riding.

Thankfully my legs responded fairly well. I started off pretty hot, but was able to settle into a good pace. I was a little leary through the first two corners because I crashed last year on the hairpin turn during a wet weather race. After the 2nd lap, I had my cornering confidence back remembering to lean my body, not the bike in the tighter corners and was taking them at high speed.

The wind was light, but not from a consistent direction, swirling more than anything and temps were pretty warm in the mid 60's.

Watching my HR it was the first race in a year where my HR stayed above 160 BPM for the entire race with an average of 163 BPM.

Coming around the final turn I could see my time and was close to a PR, so I pushed it pretty hard crossing the line at 24:22 ... which was a PR on the course for me by 6 seconds. I wasn't sure how I would fare position wise since results wouldn't be posted until later.

This was also my first race on my Flo disc wheel ... which I like a lot. It feels comfortable, accelerated well, held speed well and felt a little more confident in the corners than my old RENN disc. No complaints from the wheel at all and was expected based on my experience with other Flo wheels.

In the end ... I ended up winning the 40-49 Masters field.

Then I followed up the race competing in the "Eddie" category ... basically no aero gear at all and completed on my road bike. I was able to finish 3rd in this class but could tell my legs were tired and a little dead. I finished this race in 27:05 with an average wattage of 328 watts, which is below what I can normally put out, but with my forearms on the bars my hip angle was closed off and I had just done an all out effort 20 minutes before.

Overall ... a good weekend and my first win of the season.

Next up ... As the Raven Flies, only longer ... it's the first early season 40k Time Trial. I've heard the roads are so-so and there is a fair amount of climbing at around 1400-1500 feet over 24.8 miles.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kings Valley Road Race

Had my first road race in two years yesterday ... Kings Valley Road Race.

I've had success there in the past with a 3rd place finish, but also got crashed out two years ago when I lost my custom Tsunami. Last week at the group ride a teammate told me If I go race, he'd go race ... so, I figured what the heck, at a minimum a good training race with some intensity.

I've actually gained a lot of fitness over the last 6 weeks gaining most of my power back (though still down on FTP and 20 minute power) and dropping my weight by 20 pounds since mid February ... weighed in at 194 pounds yesterday morning ... So, I thought I might have a chance to at least do moderately well.

Going in, I knew the only way I would do well was with a break away since the race ends with a 1.8 mile hill climb, most of which isn't too bad but the last 1k or so is really tough with grades of 8% - 9% for a about 400 meters, then levels out a bit over the last 200 meters ... And I struggle between 6% and 12% grades, over or under that and I can do OK for some reason.

I was a little stressed out beginning the race due to crashing there the last time I raced, and some of the riding was pretty sketchy, but overall made it through safe.

Knowing I needed a break, I jumped in everything that went and tried to start about 6 of my own. The one time I almost got away was on a two man break with a former winner of the race, but after about 5 minutes out front he got a flat and I was quickly reeled back in at that point.

The race had a ton of people at the start because it was a combined Masters 40/50/60 field and at the start had 80+ racers in it. I started at the front, looked back and could see the long line, so I tried to get things separated and thinned out to keep it a bit safer ... but there was a core group that just wouldn't let things go. In a lot of ways I felt like I was racing CAT 5 again, because the group would chase down EVERYTHING ... quickly, never letting anything get more than about 10-15 seconds up the road. The teams with a good climber were only there to chase down every break and sprint for the finish, which is what was accomplished in the end. Kinda sucks when you are for the most part racing solo (had one teammate, but never saw him until the end).

With all the accelerations and solo attempts, I didn't have much in my legs to accelerate at the end and finished 31st out of about 50 riders (in my field) ... but was only about 12 seconds off the winner. I had one teammate in the race who I saw at the start and at the end ... nowhere in-between. He weighs about 10 - 15 pounds more than I do and when comparing power numbers I averaged 21 more watts overall and 36 watts more on my Normalized Power ... So, I did a fair amount more work than he being stuck in the pack.

Overall ... A good race, good effort and back to TT's next week :) I have a 20K next weekend and a 40k the following weekend ... then  the TTT a couple weeks after that.

Anyway ... a little road racing every now and then can be a good thing :)