Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feed the Disease

I love racing. I haven't done it since IMAZ in November, and it's so much fun! The adrenaline gets you through the 4AM wakeup, then you go through your ritual gear prep, breakfast, and head to the venue. I train because it's fun, I truly enjoy the workouts and I don't think about the races that often. But when race day comes, it's like living someone elses life for a few hours. I feel alive. No more 3 month hiatus's from racing, I need to get out there more - even if they are just training prep for other races.
I participated in the Bulldog bike Race this weekend, and it was lots of fun. This was my first bike race, and quite a learning experience. Some things were expected: drafting, close quarters, accidents, and machismo. Some things were a surprise: all the trash talking, strategy, and d-baggery.
To my surprise, I did OK in the 26 mile race. The first 8 miles are flat, and the whole 100+ rider peleton stayed together and at an easy pace - I even found myself at the front at one point! It was cool to be "winning" a race, but it was really bad strategy - as everyone else was saving their legs for an attack on the upcoming climb. My friend Cory told me later - "If you're going to be dumb, you have to be strong". I agree, and I think that might be my racing style! Riding in the pack was easy (though a bit dangerous) and honestly it got boring. I was chatting with my adopted team (I have lots of friends from the Moment Cycle) and thought the whole race would be nothing but a group ride with a sprint at the end. Wrong. I got dropped like a bad habit on the first climb, which is where all the teams attacked. I lost sight of the leaders, and never saw them again. I hooked up with one of the chase groups and we went pretty hard - we picked up a lot of the stragglers who fell off the lead pack as the race went on. The chase pack was cool, but there were a couple of d-bags in with us. One guy who kept swerving wildly 10 feet or more to the left - he did it deliberately whenever he felt someone was crossing up his rear wheel. What an ass. There was one guy who kept taunting another rider about how poorly he climbed hills - apparently they had a verbal exchange early in the race, and kept jawing for the whole hour. Then there was a weak ass rider from some LA cycling team who kept trying to win with strategy. He would get to the front of the pack and pull for only about 10 seconds, then go hide back in the pack - sometimes skipping his turn up front all together. I decided to punish him a bit by getting behind him and forcing him to take a real pull - he got pissed, doing the roadie elbow wave, which I ignored, and it lead to him getting pretty pissed - which was the point. I kept trying to push the pace by attacking off the front, but even at 32 MPH on the flat stretches the group kept covering all my moves, and we all ended up finishing together.
I raced hard, but not all out. I knew I still had a short run, followed by another 60 minutes on the bike, and a second run scheduled for the day. After the race I put the bike in my car, put on my running shoes and took off. The d-bag cyclist attitude showed itself again, as several people gave me a hard time for running after the race - one guy yelled "if you can still run, then you didn't ride hard enough". It's not a particularly mean comment, it was the way he said it - like he was angry at me for not taking the bike race as seriously as I could have. Funny, I was running past him as he exited the finish chute, after having completed the race, checking the results, chatting with coach, packing my bike away, and changing into running gear. Maybe he's the one who didn't go hard enough?
My results were pretty good (I think). I was 4 minutes behind the winner, and placed 14th (of 24) in my age group, and 105th of 578 overall. If I had gone 2 minutes faster, which I think was easily doable, I would have been in the top 50. Wow, I've never been that high up on the list before - maybe cycling races aren't so bad :)
Bike racing seems much more social than triathlon, which was cool - unfortunately there seems to be a lot of a-holes in the bunch. I'm going to stick with being a triathlete (good people those tri geeks), and I'll venture over to road racing when I need an ego boost :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Properly paced CP30 test

Earlier this month I did a CP30 test to help me determine my Functional Threshold Power. My average power was ok, but as I pointed out previously my pacing was pretty much shit. Coach scheduled a bunch of time trials this week, including a cycling test of CP30 so I headed back to Fiesta Island for a new CP30 test.
Last time I went out too hard on lap 1 (of 3) and was struggling by the end. My goal this time around was to negative split (get faster each lap) by hitting these wattage numbers for the three laps: 245, 250, 255.

First, here are the overall test numbers:
Duration: 32:28
Distance: 12.34 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 507 258 watts
Heart: 134 186 144 bpm
Cadence: 63 152 95 rpm
Speed: 14.3 29 22.8 mph

This is slightly faster than last time (33:33, 22.1 MPH) but that doesn't really mean anything since the wind conditions were horrible on the previous attempt. Wattage was increased from 245 to 258, now that's progress! In fact, it's a 5% improvement - and I'm certain that pacing is responsible for those results.
My lap wattages for this test were: 246, 251, 276
That is fantastic, I hit my target wattages on laps 1 and 2, and used up everything in my tank on the last lap. That's good pacing, and the results speak for themselves. I also felt better - my average heart rate was actually lower than the last time. Lower heart rate and 5% more power? Fantastic!

Finally, here's the FTP calculation, using the CP20 that WKO+ gives me (266 watts):
FTP = CP20 * 0.95 = 266 * 0.95 = 252.7 watts.

Wow, last month was 242 watts. Did I just have a good test, or am I really improving? It's hard to say, but I'm trying to be optimistic :)

If you'd like to see my data for yourself, here it is:

Monday, February 16, 2009

If you need me...

... this is where to find me for the next couple of hours:

Update: It hurt.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin's 200th

Sorry for the foray away from triathlon and training, but today is a big day for the "geek" side of my personality.
Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, and this year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous work "On the Origin of Species". I'm a huge fan of Darwin, I am one of the many who count him as possibly the most important scientist in all of human history. I once heard the distinguished biologist Richard Dawkins speak about Darwin's idea of evolution through natural selection and he said something along the lines of: "it explains everything about the natural world, and requires almost no pre-supposition to do so". Natural selection is easy to understand - you don't need a degree in biology to grasp the idea. You could explain it in a few sentences to anyone and they would get the concept. Compare that with Einstein's theory of relativity, in which a great deal of knowledge is required before you can even begin!
Darwin's theory is so powerful because it explains who and what we are. There are literally millions of pieces of evidence corroborating the theory, and in 200 years not a single piece that disproves it. It's as close to fact as anything in science. In 1859, for the first time in human history, we knew our place in the universe. How glorious is that?! Of course natural selection blows all of the Creation Myths out of the water - including all three of the world's major religions - which I'm sure is unsettling for some. Especially for those who think of humans as elevated above other creatures in the world. They didn't want to hear that we as a species just got lucky and our naturally selected advantage was the ability to out-think our competition. This makes us unique, but not special - we play by the same rules as all of nature does. For the most part the world has gotten over their distaste for the world Darwin revealed, and even the Vatican has recognized evolution through natural selection as a scientific fact. Hell, if they can get over Copernicus and Galileo revealing that the Earth was not the center of the universe, then they can get over anything.
There are a handful of truly great scientists in western history: Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Watts and Crick, and in my opinion Hawking. For me, Darwin takes the prize as the most important. He took mankind off of it's pedestal, and placed it in it's proper place among all of it's cousins. He revealed the largest Truth ever unveiled to us - and that's pretty damned cool.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Suffer. Sacrifice.

When 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis was asked what the best advice he had ever been given, he replied: "Suffer. Sacrifice." I always liked that - and I thought of it often during my first season of training. As I was pushing up Torrey Pines for the 10th time one Sunday morning, as I took off into a 30 MPH headwind for the first half of a century ride, as I rode through the snow on Mt. Laguna in bike shorts. I liked the idea of suffering now, with the reward coming later. During that first year I woke up every day so sore that I didn't know if I could complete the 2 mile bike ride to the pool for Masters. After the swim I made myself breakfast, spent the day at the office, did my evening workout, packed my lunch for the next day, then went straight to sleep by 9pm. Often times I went to bed hungry, since I tracked my caloric intake closely and ate just enough to fuel my workouts. I had a ritual, and it worked for me. I enjoyed the spartan lifestyle, the simplicity of single-minded focus.

My second season of training was different. The distances were so huge, that I had no choice but to moderate my effort, and to rest before a big event. I learned to be efficient, and to exert measured effort over long periods. It was different, and the long periods of quiet caused me to lose some of my single-mindedness.

Lately I feel like my life has gotten complicated, and I've been getting soft. Sure I have tough days, but I still end each workout with a smile on my face. I go out each day and train because I choose to do so - because I'm having fun. I wake up every morning feeling refreshed. I'm training smarter now - I actually have "recovery workouts" which are good for recovering from a hard workout without getting too lazy. I'm seeing better results now as well. I certainly would not recommend my old "punish myself everyday" training philosophy to anyone looking to get faster - it's a horrible way to prepare for a race. But I liked it. I liked the simplicity of "do whatever I can today... and then a little bit more." I liked the suffering because I knew I had a higher tolerance for it than the guy next to me.

It occurred to me that I was getting soft a while back, when I realized I hadn't vomited during a workout in over a year. Not that I enjoy the taste of vomit, but I've found that if my breakfast isn't working it's way up my esophagus, then I'm probably not redlining. During this Sunday's ride I demonstrated my mental weakness. I cut the ride short due to rain. Rain?! Are you kidding me? What kind of f'ing pansy have I turned into? I can't believe how psychologically anemic that is - it's embarrassing, which is why I'm writing it down. I need to toughen up, and get back to where I was a year ago. I still want to train smart, and go easy on recovery days. But the intense days need to be more intense. I need to stop being polite during my group bike rides and staying with the group. I need to stop being a wuss when it comes to running hard. My hard days need to be hard. I need to finish workouts when they are uncomfortable, when they hurt, when I don't want to be there. I need to re-learn how to Suffer during a workout, and to Sacrifice the things that sabotage my plans.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Weekend Update

  • work
  • swim
  • bars

  • sleep in! raining, so no cycling - trying to keep bike clean.
  • run
  • ice ankle
  • Ironman meetup
  • drinks at Blarney Stone

  • Bike/Run/Bike/Run on Fiesta. It rained - bike is filthy
  • ice ankle

My filthy bike

I am not going to have fun getting the sand out of there! Was I doing Xterra?

Weekly totals:
Volume: 11 hours
Swim Distance: 4.7 miles
Run Distance: 26 miles
Bike Distance: 63 miles

It seems pretty light on cycling to me, but then again I tend to over-train when left to my own decisions. I did mess up one bike workout this week and had to cut it short. Also, I didn't do a long ride on the weekend which has always been a staple of my training. However, 26 miles running is the longest I've done in any week since IMAZ - and I feel pretty good about it. Metronome running is very effective - too bad I can only keep it up for a few minutes at a time. I'm running well (for very short periods) and without injury. The ankle is still sore, but it's certainly not getting worse - it may even be improving.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Functional Threshold Power - February

A little over a month ago I did a 12 mile time trial in order to measure my CP30 and estimate my functional threshold power. Today I went back for my 30 day checkup. Once again I returned to Fiesta Island for a 3 loop, 12 mile TT which usually takes me just a shade over 30 minutes to finish. If you'd like to see the power data for my test, I think you can view it online with this URL.
I began with a 15 minute warmup loop - which was enough to realize that this was going to be a windy day. It was 12 to 15mph wind, which means half the loop is a strong headwind, and half is a tailwind. It's nice that it evens out like that, but it means that its more difficult to do a steady effort. Luckily and device like my PowerTap 2.4SL is exactly the right tool. If used properly I can just adjust my gearing and cadence to maintain a steady power reading, and ignore my speed completely for a nice smooth effort. Unfortunately I didn't do that.
I knew (or should have known) that I averaged 242 watts last time I did the test, and that my target power output should be somewhere in that ballpark. 245 would have been a good target. Unfortunately I started the first lap into the headwind, and took off like a bat out of hell. I felt good, my wattage was large and I was thinking quite highly of myself. I did 265 watts on the first lap, at 22.4 MPH - including a 5 minute stretch with a tailwind where I did 27.4 MPH!
But, the second loop bit me. Somewhere struggling along the long backstretch into the headwind the lactic acid started building up in my legs, and I knew I was in trouble. I fought hard on the second loop, but was angry at myself for f'ing up the pacing. Lap 2 was 239 watts, a drop of 10% over lap 1. Crap... this is supposed to be an even effort - or maybe even a slight negative split. The third lap I knew I was toast, but I left it all out on the island and ended up with a 230 watt average. Here's the final numbers:
Duration: 33:33
Distance: 12.37 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 464 245 watts
Heart: 118 153 146 bpm
Cadence: 56 141 92 rpm
Speed: 14.9 30.6 22.1 mph

245 watts and 22.1 MPH. Compared to last month (242 watts, 22.0 MPH) it seems almost identical. However, since I approached the pacing so badly this month, I really feel like I could have done better. If I had targeted 250 watts, and actually stayed there on the first loop instead of burning out, I feel like I could have held it the whole way. Next month my target wattage for the three loops will be 245, 250, 255.

For those of you doing the math, my FTP changed drastically this time. According to WKO+, my peak 20 minutes (CP20) were the first 20, where I held 255 watts.
FTP = CP20 * 0.95 = 255 * 0.95 = 242 watts.

Last month my FTP was 230 watts, so at first this seems like a great improvement. In reality it's just a side effect of my inconsistent pacing - I had 20 good minutes which make the CP20 artificially high, which I paid for with 10 lousy minutes that brought my CP30 back to almost exactly where it was last month. Pacing, pacing, pacing!