Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddle Height/Rotor Q Rings

Saddle Height

I've finished a few rides now at a lower saddle height. My old saddle height of about 36.5" was lowered to about 35.5". At first I tried it at 35" because that corresponded with most of the studies I've read, but that felt too low. The 35.5" feels ok now and I think it's reduced my movement in the saddle.

A final note on the subject: A couple of the studies I read (in High-tec cycling and somewhere else) concluded that higher saddle height had the direct result of higher power output. The studies recommended raising the saddle until limitations of injury or discomfort kicked in (I had neither - I just looked like my saddle was too high).

Q Rings
Although I've been somewhat interested in non-circular chainrings for about 20 years, it has always been just a curiosity until now. I first was exposed to cycling in college when I picked up a hand-me-down Schwinn bike from a friend for $50 so I could get to class. It had non-circular chainrings. They were probably Shimano BioPace, but I don't remember.

In my recent research about saddle height, I saw lots of articles about non-circular chainrings. I say non-circular because there are lots of variations:

1. Shimano BioPace (introduced in the 1980s) were not circular, but were not elliptical either. They had varying, non-perpendicular radii. The largest radius occurred near at the dead spots in the pedaling stroke, 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock. That doesn't make sense to me. Why would you want the torque to be highest where you had the least muscle power to turn the pedals??? They look like this:

2. O-Symmetric rings are available now and have been used by a few pros in time trials. I don't know much about them, but they are not elliptical (they look sort of square, as you can see in this photo of Bobby Julich's TT bike:

At least they appear to have the larger radius at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock 'power' positions to take advantage of the pedal downstroke.

3. The studies I read varied in their love of non-circular chainrings, but the one that looked most promising to me was the Rotor System, which isn't really a non-circular chainring at all. Its a complicated crankarm gearing system that accelerates the pedal through the dead spots and takes more advantage of the downstroke. It uses circular chainrings, but your pedals are not always in a line, or 180 degrees from each other. When your right leg is at the bottom (6 o'clock), your left leg is a little past the top (at about 1 o'clock). The system weighs about a pound more than a conventional crankset and is pretty expensive ($700 to $1000 depending on the model). It looks like this:

Now, even though I'm open to the idea of a non-conventional chainring system, I'm not about to spring for $1000 for a system that, if I loved it, I'd have to buy 4 times. (For a road bike, a TT bike, a Computrainer bike, and a tandem). Because unlike the other systems I'm describing, I think this one takes some getting used to.

But Rotor realized that too, so they recently introduced Rotor Q-Rings. They are an elliptical chainring that has the larger radius occurring when the pedals are at the power positions (3 and 9 o'clock). They are designed to approximate the effect of the Rotor system, and the elliptical shape is supposed to be smoother than the asymetrical shapes of the BioPace and O-Symmetric rings. I just can't figure out why this is the 3rd or 4th generation of non-circular chainrings. I don't know much, but this is the first thing I would have tried. They look like this:

Any way, I was intrigued by the idea, they aren't terribly expensive (about $200 new), they don't add weight, and it's winter experimentation season, so I bought a set. The big ring is called a 53, but the radius varies from an effective 56-tooth on the downstroke to an effective 51-tooth at the top and bottom of the stroke. The small ring is called a 42, but it's 44 in the long direction and 40 in the short direction.

I had to raise my front derailleur about 1cm to clear the long axis of the big ring, and now there are maybe a couple of centimeters of space between the derailleur and the big ring when the small axis is up. In training I had no shifting issues at all, but the first time I tried shifting to the big ring on a group ride this weekend, the chain momentarily jumped off the rings. It worked fine after the first time. It might need a little adjustment and I might need to get the feel of it.

I had already decided to go to a bigger rear gear (I ride a 23 now in training and was going to go to a 25). But with the bigger front rings, I've actually gone to a slightly smaller gear ratio even after adding the 25. So I guess I need a 26 now to get the ratio I want for training.

I'll have to admit that the rings felt great the first couple of times out, and I felt very strong on Saturday's group ride -- but that could be due to other factors. After a couple of weeks of acclimation and adjustment, I'll do a couple of time trials to find out if there is any benefit. If I get something between 4 and 9 percent power increase as shown in the research, I'll be amazed. But you never know. It may be one of those things that are beneficial to some people, but not to others, which can make the research inconclusive. A 5% increase in power would be about 12 watts for me. That's a number that will be noticeable in my testing.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Musical Interlude

As a momentary antidote to the analysis paralysis that normally clutters up this space, here's a sample of the tunes on my Rio Cali that help pass the basement Computrainer time:

  • My Chemical Romance - Welcome to the Black Parade
  • The Racontours - Steady, As She Goes
  • Radiohead - Creep
  • Pearl Jam - Black
  • Dave Matthews - Two Step
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
  • The Killers - All These Things That I've Done
  • The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army
  • Rush - Closer to the Heart
  • Hoodoo Gurus - Bittersweet
  • Tracy Bonham - Mother, Mother
  • Nirvana - Lithium
  • The Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter
  • Yes - Changes

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

20-min FTP test

Several references I've seen say that a 20-minute time trial in training should give you the equivalent average power as a 1-hour time trial in competition. And a 1-hour competition TT, which is functional threshold power (FTP), should result in about 103% of the average power you'd see in a 1-hour training TT. I think yesterday I proved those relationships to be true.

My 1-hr, training TT average power on 12/2/06 was 231 watts, which yeilds a FTP of 231 x 1.03=238 watts.

Yesterday, 12/19/06, my 20-minute training TT average power was 240 watts. That's almost a perfect match, and it may be an exact match if I've increased my FTP by 2 watts in the past 2 weeks.

It's good to know that some of these calculations actually work.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Saddle Height

I’ve been told many times by the rider behind me in a pace line that I rock too much in the saddle. If I’d only heard this once or twice I might dismiss it as a bad day, because I don’t feel like I move around too much. But I obviously do, because I get the comment more than infrequently and it's usually from folks who know a little bit about riding a bike (translation: they’re faster than I am). If I thought efficiency wasn't involved, I wouldn't waste my time trying worrying about it, but methinks it does makes a difference, maybe a significant one.

I’ve experimented with saddle height before, I've read many opinions about how do determine it, and I've been fitted on a bike once or twice. But I think my saddle height sort of migrates higher over time because I’m accustomed to it more than anything else. So I have decided to take a more scientific approach and see what happens.

My saddle height has been about 36.5” from saddle top to center of pedal axle, which is shown as length 1 in the figure below.

Saddle Height is dimension 1 Trochanter height is 76 in this figure

Here are the studies that I’ve found and the corresponding saddle height that would be recommended for me:
35.3” Hamley & Thomas, 1967 – 1.0 x (trochanter height)
34.9” Hamley & Thomas, 1967 – 1.09 x (inseam height)
35.3” Shennum & DeVries, 1975 – 1.0 x (trochanter height)
35.3” Nordeen & Cavanagh, 1975 – 1.0 x (trochanter height)
37.1” Nordeen & Snyder, 1977 – 1.05 x (trochanter height)
??.?” Genzling, 1978 – 25 to 30 degree knee bend
35.4” LeMond, 1987 – 0.883 x (inseam height) – 3mm

Some of these studies are a little vague about whether the measurements are including shoes, etc. It’s obvious from the dates of the above studies that saddle height research is no longer a hot research topic, but it has been researched a lot – the above list is just a sample of the available studies.

So it looks like I need to lower my saddle about an inch to 35.3 inches. I plan to try that and see if I feel more stable on the saddle and see if I notice any differences in power, fatigue, etc.

It’s interesting to note that based on the above guidelines, my wife, Betty Jean, needs to lower her saddle almost 2 inches! I think I’ll recommend that she lower it about an inch and see what happens. An inch is an awful lot in saddle height. And even thought we probably should lower it gradually, we’re going to go whole hog and see what happens.

I might find out that I was already at my optimal saddle height and that I'm just a Jim Furyk of cycling, but I doubt it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Chicken or the Egg?

I've recently been discussing lactate threshold. I sometimes tend to overanalyze or mathematically dissect and issue to death because that's part of the allure to me. But I also think that anyone who would like to be a stronger rider can ignore the more simplistic approach to training at their own peril. Eddie Merckx's advice might be the best two word training advice ever: "Ride lots."

I've always wondered if the strongest riders have been riding many years because they are good at it (most people naturally enjoy activities that they are good at) or if they are good at it because they have been riding for many years. This post from the Google wattage forum gives this less gifted athlete a little hope that the latter argument holds true:

Intervals do well improving ones fitness in the short term, but they lead to burnout. Long term improvements comes from chronic long term training specific to the sport of interest. In order to do that, it's best to keep what ever cycling training you're doing enjoyable. Keep a long term focus, without obsessing on the details and you'll do fine.

This is exemplified by a study of 14 competitive cyclists with nearly identical VO2 max values that differed substantially in their lactate threshold determined during cycling (ranging between 61 and 86% of VO2 max). When the cyclists were divided into a "low" and "high" LT groups (66% vs. 81% of maximal oxygen consumption), it was found that the two groups differed considerable in the years of cycling training (2.7 compared to 5.1 years on average). However, they did not differ in years of endurance training (7-8 years of running, rowing etc.) When the low cycling LT and high cycling LT groups performed a lactate threshold test while running on a treadmill, the two groups were no longer different. Measured while running, the lactate threshold in both groups averaged over 80% of VO2 max.

In other words it wasn't genetics, but the length of chronic training and competition that made the difference. What's most important is that it be enjoyable so that you'll stick with it and make it into the second group.

My VO2max is about 65 mmole/l/min, which is pretty decent. Maybe that means my LT will gradually rise with time. And if not, it'll be a good long term experiment anyway.

Friday, December 15, 2006

TSB for personal bests

This chart was posted by Andrew Coggan. It shows the Training Stress Balance (TSB) values where the most personal bests are recorded. Looks like TSB of about 10 is a good target for best performance.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Performance Manager

Cycling Peaks software has a new feature developed by Dr. Coggan that's pretty interesting. Finding good cycling form has always been more art than science, and maybe it still is, but his Performance Manager, which was incorporated into the last update of Cycling Peaks WKO+ makes an effort to determine form scientifically if you load the power data file for every single workout that you do into the software. Here are the basics:

1. For each ride, the software computes your Normalized Power (NP), which is the steady power equivalent of the entire workout. This number, which is usually higher than your average power is calculated using a rolling 30-second average and some fourth-power polynomials to approximate your body's response to irregular power output.

2. Your intensity factor (IF) is just NP/FTP (Your Functional Threshold Power [FTP] is your steady 1-hour TT max power). An intensity factor of 0.7 means your average effort was about 70% of threshold.

3. The software computes a Total Stress Score (TSS) for each workout. TSS is (time in hours)*(IF^2)*100. So an easy one and a half hour ride might be TSS=(1.5)*(0.7*0.7)*100=73.5.

4. Performance manager defines your Acute Training Load (ATL) as the average TSS per day over the past 14 days, and it defines your Chronic Training Load (CTL) as your average TSS per day over the past 6 weeks.

5. Finally, Total Stress Balance (TSB) is designed to represent your cycling form on any given day. It is calculated: TSS=ATL-CTL. Theoretically, the higher your TSB, the better your form, and you'll normally feel strongest when your TSB is a positive number.

See my recent Performance Manager chart below, and my 2005 chart below that. The red line is ATL, the blue line is CTL, and the yellow bars are TSB. Click on the charts to get a legible version.
November 5, 2006 to present:

January 1, 2005 to current:

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Double-deflection Lactate Threshold

After combining information I've obtained from reading, from lab tests and discussions with Tony Myers at ATS in Atlanta, and with Richard Wharton, Online Bike Coach, in Dallas, I've determined that I have a somewhat unusual characteristic. At a low effort level (for me it's at about 150 watts, or 135 bpm, which is in my endurance training zone), the lactate concentration in my exhaled breath (and bloodstream) starts to noticeably increase. For most cyclists, that's an indicator that with a little more effort, a pretty good muscle 'burn' and a limited amount of exertion time is in store. But since I know that my functional threshold is at 238 watts and 160 bpm, that doesn't apply for me. I have a double-deflection lactate threshold. Tony says he has seen one other client exhibit the same traits, and Richard said that he has seen it once, in Charles Kulp, to whom his new book is dedicated.

The 'diagnosis' is both good news and bad news. The good news is that one of my negative genetic traits, a low initial lactate threshold, is offset by a positive genetic trait, a high capacity to buffer lactic acid. It probably means I can ride for a long time at very near my threshold (about 4.25 hrs yesterday at 89% intensity factor). But I think it also means that once I do exceed my threshold, I can't stay there very long, but can recover quickly for another short burst. Essentially, I may have lots of matches in my book, but they aren't very hot.

In the next few months, I plan to: 1. Perform testing to see how my blood lactate levels relate to what I've seen from the ventalatory threshold testing I've done so far, and 2. Figure out if I should modify my training in any way to better accommodate my type of body chemistry.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Thoughts on threshold measurement

I like data, so about a year ago, I had my lactate threshold professionally measured using a breathing apparatus that measures accumulation of lactate in your exhaled breath, which represents an accumulation of lactate in your bloodstream. In theory, lactate accumulation means that you have reached or exceeded the point where your body can clear lactic acid faster than it's being produced by the work of your muscles. A buildup of lactic acid eventually requires you to lower your power output (effort).

Two tests in winter 2005 indicated that my threshold, based on lactate accumulation, was at a heartrate of about 135 bpm. I hadn't been training much in fall 2005, but that seemed very low to me. I knew from hard training rides and training for triathlon that I could maintain a heartrate of 160 for an extended period, 20 or 30 minutes at least.

Over the past year I've done some bike racing and have determined purely through trial-and-error that my threshold is around 158-160 bpm. (I'm defining threshold here as the effort on the bike that I can sustain for a lengthy period, specifially, I'm using the Dr. Andrew Coggan definition of Functional Power Threshold (FTP). He says FTP is the max power that you can hold for 1 hour, which is a very practical definition as far as I am concerned.) I recently bought a power meter, and from last week's test, I know for a fact that my current FTP is 238 watts. I also know for a fact that my FTP heartrate is 160 bpm (it was very steady during my test).

I don't question whether my 2005 lactate threshold test actually reflected an increase in blood lactate concentration around 135 bpm. So that leads me to this conclusion: Be very careful about how you define threshold effort. It might be accurate to state that my lactate threshold is 135 bpm, but of what use is that information? I don't want to use that number to set up my training ranges, and it doesn't tell me how hard to ride in a breakaway. It's just the effort at which my blood chemistry starts changing.

I choose to define threshold as a number that is useful for me in training and racing. I think the Coggan FTP is most useful in that regard.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

FTP test

Now that I've had my Ergomo power meter for a few weeks, I've become both comfortable with it and confident in what it's telling me. So yesterday I performed my first functional threshold power (FTP) test. I use the term FTP as defined by Andrew Coggan's work: it's the highest average power that you can hold for a 1 hour time trial in a race (which equates to about 103% of your training TT results). It can be estimated by doing a 30 minute time trial in training or by taking 97% of a 30-minute time trial at a race (where motivation is theoretically higher).

I decided to use the 'gold standard' 1-hour test. My average power for a 1 hour TT in training was 231 watts. 231/0.97 = 238, so I'm using that as my FTP now to establish my training zones. (My normalized power was 235 watts for the test interval.) Last February I estimated my FTP at about 210 watts, so it's increased by about 13% in less than a year. I'd like to get it to 250 by mid 2007 (3.6 watts/kg).

Friday, November 24, 2006

Winter Cycling-specific Weight Training

Another thing I'm trying for the first time this year is cycling-specific weight training, which primarily means squats, leg extensions, leg curls, and core strength excercises. I'm using the Anatomical Adaptation (AA), Maximum Transition (MT), and Maximum Strength (MS) phased approach as described in Coggin's book, Training and Racing with a Power Meter.

The AA phase is lots of sets and reps with light weight to get your body (primarily your joints) used to weight lifting. I started over a month ago squatting 3 sets of 20 with 75 lbs. Lifting three times a week, I worked my way up to squatting about 3 or 4 sets of 20 with 100 lbs.

I'm in the late part of the MT phase now. I'm doing three sets of 10 with about 155 lbs three times a week. The MS phase is next. I'll be doing 3 or 4 sets of 4 or 6 reps with heavier weight to build strength. After the MS phase is complete (late January, I think), I'll continue MS-phase type workouts about once per week throughout the year.

The lifting has definately made a difference in my leg strength. I look forward to seeing how that translates into power on the bike. Like Don Henly says, hopefully it won't be 'wasted time'.

Ergomo Pro

After experimenting with the iBike power meter for a couple of months, I've sold it and shelled out some cash for an Ergomo Pro meter. The iBike is a good unit, and in my opinion is well worth the few hundred dollar price. But I'm really into analyzing the data. And some uncertainty about the accuracy just bugged me too much.

The Ergomo is a great tool. I've only had it for 6 weeks or so, but it has led me into a better understanding of training using power and using the Performance Manager feature in the Cycling Peaks WKO+ software. If you're not familiar with Normalized Power (NP), Intensity Factor (IF), Training Stress Score (TSS), Acute Training Load (ATL), Chronic Training Load (CTL), and Training Stress Balance (TSB), you should read up (ignore that statement if you don't like to play with the data). For those of us who like the self-coached approach, they are wonderful tools. I think they'll help me squeeze out whatever additional ability there is left in these 38-year-old, non-genetically-gifted legs of mine.

For those of you familiar with CTL, I think I'll shoot for a level between 75 and 100 throughout the year.

2006 Georgia Cup completed

My first year dedicated to bike racing is now complete (after 5 years of triathlon with a couple of bike races thrown in). Although I finished well in the Cat5 points standings, it was a fairly uneventful year as far as results are concerned. I had a few top 10 finishes, and I don't think I ever finished lower than about 16th when I completed a race, but mainly my points success resulted from just showing up to most of the races and entering the Omnium competition on a regular basis. And because I was racing mostly for points standings, my race strategy was conservative and boring.

Next year's strategy will be different, I think. Because there likely will be other Cat5 riders from MAX Cycling racing in Georgia Cup races, I think I'll stay in Cat5, race with them (or in the Masters Open category), and try to develop a more interesting, aggressive strategy for the races. My results will be much more varied, but the races should be more interesting. I think I'll also eliminate the crits from my schedule and stick to time trials and road races. I suck at crits first of all, and they are the most likely places for crashes second of all. I'll be fresher for the road races, too.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Jasper-Jones-Monroe-Morgan Cycling Map

I've been working on a map of good cycling roads in my area. Here's a preview in low resolution .jpg format (the pdf version wouldn't load for some reason):

Monday, July 10, 2006

iBike Pro finally shipped

I got word from my vendor that he finally received the long-awaited iBike Pro power meters last week. He said mine was shippe either Wednesday or Thursday, so I should see it by today or Tomorrow. I look forward to seeing if it will live up to all the hype.

Georgia Games Cat5 Race Report

The road race portion of the Georgia Games cycling competition was held in College Park on Saturday. I raced Cat 5, Rick raced Cat4, and Erica (sp?) raced Cat4. As I was leaving, I saw one other guy in a MAX Cycling Club team kit getting ready for a later race (might have been Chad Madan, but I'm not sure).

The course was a boring one. They gave us the inside lanes of a 4-lane highway with a grassy median. Cat 5s did two out-and-back 16-mile loops (32 total). Cat 4 men did three laps, and I'm not sure about Cat4 women. The finishing 250m was a 3-4% uphill sprint.I watched the Cat4 finish from the finish line. At the bottom of the hill, the group started to spread out across the road for the sprint. Then I saw about 5 guys do flips into the median. After the smoke cleared, there were several guys down on the median and a few more in a pile in the middle of the road. Rick had a very good sprint and finished 4th out of what looked like about 50.

When my race got finally started (we waited for 30 minutes at the start due to registration problems) it started out very slowly -- I guess everyone needed to warm up again. Not much happened on the way out on the first lap, so after we made the tight u-turn to come back in, I attacked on a long, gradual climb. I got about a 30-second lead and held it there for a few minutes, hoping to get some company for a more sustained breakaway. But I guess either nobody was in the mood, or they all thought they were sprinters. So I drifted back to the group before I got too tired. I tried it again on the way back on our second lap, but the pack was more attentive this time, and I didn't get very far. We finished in a bunch sprint, and I took 15th out of about 53 riders. But I was waaaay behind the lead sprinters, who are just amazingly fast.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Macon Rock 'n Rollman Half Ironman

On June 4th I raced the Rock 'n Rollman half iron race in Macon, GA. I've raced it twice before, and decided back in February that I'd do it again this year, so I pre-registered. However, at about the same time in February, I caught the bike racing bug. Therefore, I had done almost no running and swimming from February to June (maybe swam 3 times and ran 3-4 miles per week on most weeks).

I decided to go ahead and race, just take it easy on the swim, and maybe even DNF and skip the run. The swim went ok. I was slower than in prior years, but last year's course was shorter than it should have been and it was also a wetsuit swim last year - unlike this year.

I figured that all my bike training would result in a much quicker bike leg. I planned to try a reverse split ride where I finished strong, so I limited my heartrate during the first half of the ride to 150 bpm. I had a great first half - I felt strong and averaged about 20.5 mph, which was about a mile per hour quicker than last year. I was also careful about eating and drinking enough.

During the second half of the ride, it became more and more difficult for me to keep my heartrate at the desired level (I planned to keep it at or right beneath 150 bpm, then finish the last 5 miles in an anaerobic scream). By the end of the ride, I found it difficult to generate any significant power, and my heartrate was hovering around 135 to 140 bpm. I don't think I bonked or got dehydrated (I ate and drank plenty and didn't feel bad). My only guess is that muscle fatigue did me in (I was at or below threshold heartrate, so I doubt it was a lactic acid buildup - plus, I think I would have felt muscle burn in that case). Bike time was about 1:53, I think - a minute or two slower than last year - very dissapointing.

I decided to go ahead with the run, but ran very, very slowly. I finished the race in about 5:51, which was about 35 minutes slower than last year.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

iBike Pro

I've done a lot of research on training and racing using a power meter. I'm sold on the fact that it's a more accurate way to dose your training than heartrate and has other advantages. Not wanting to drop $2000+ on an SRM, I researched the iBike Pro. Theoretically, it should work pretty well. If you know the forces against you (air resistance/wind, gravity, inertia, and mechanical losses), it should be a small step to calculate your power output. The trick is getting good input from all the different sensors.

The short version:
Air resistance coefficient: from coast-down test
Mechanical losses and rolling resistance: from coast-down test (perform in most common riding position for that day)
Headwind/tailwind: from pressure port on front of meter on handlebars
Gravitational resistance: clinometer data combined with altimeter data inside unit along with weight input by user
Inertia: accelerometer inside unit

The ship date has been postponed several times in the last 6 months due to changes and/or updates with the unit. An e-mail from John Hamman, one of the product's developers, stated that he has found a correlation with SRM data that varied less than 1%. If that's true, the iBike Pro will be a huge success at $350 and will do to training with power what Polar did with heartrate training in the 80s and 90s.

News I received this morning said the unit should ship within a week, but I've heard that before, so I'm not holding my breath.

I e-mailed CyclingPeaks software and found out that they will be supporting downloads from the iBike Pro, but it might take a few weeks for them to get that set up.

I have one on order, I just hope I get to see it soon, but I said that 6 weeks ago!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Savannah Criterium

Jeff Clayton and I drove down early Saturday morning to ride in the Savannah criterium (Jeff also planned to stay and race the other three races on Sunday and Monday: Time Trial, Circuit, and Road Race).

The Cat5 race was first. There were about 30 in our field. The 1.1-mile course was long, narrow, and very flat with a section of pave' after turn 1, which made for some interesting shuffling of the order of the group on each lap. The bigger, stronger guys seemed to plow through the rough section much easier that us lighter riders. So I spent most of the back stretch of each lap working my way back to the front part of the group, then repeating that process for 40 minutes. Eight or 10 guys were dropped as we chased down several short breakaways, and I finished somewhere in the middle of the main pack at the end. I had fun, but have a lot to learn about crit racing (and I need to develop more power to accelerate out of the corners).

The second race of the morning was Masters Open category. Jeff was one of about 15 in the field, which included a team of 3 (I can't remember what team). David Gries (of the team of three) immediately tore off the front on the first lap and the announcer (who knew him) said it was over and that he would just time trial to the finish. However, on the second lap he anounced a pair of sunglasses as a prime, and as the group rounded turn 4, we saw that Jeff had chased Gries down. He then outsprinted the field and won the prime! The bad news was that after Jeff's catch, the Gries again took off and between his strength and his two teammates making it difficult for Jeff and the other guys in the group to chase, he did time trial for 40 more minutes to a 1-minute gap and the win. Jeff placed 3rd in the field sprint for second, giving him 4th place overall (and a pair of sunglasses).

Jeff told me later that he chased Gries again in the circuit, but did not finish with him. He finished 4th in the road race and 4th in the Omnium.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Gainesville Georgia Cup race report

The Cat 5 time trial started early Saturday in a steady rain. Luckily, it was about 60 degrees, so freezing to death was not likely. The 10K course consisted of the inside lanes of a divided 4-lane road south of Gainesville (Tanner something, I think). There were a few rolling hills, but in general the course was fast. There were about 25 Cat 5 TT entrants, I think.

The Cat 5 criterium started Saturday at 5pm, after the womens crit. The womens crit was interesting to watch, because the organizers lumped all the women into one race, Cat 4 thorough Pro 1-2. Obviously the race blew apart quickly and the Aarons team dominated most of the race. I heard the announcer call out Renee Martinez from MAX cycling team, but could not find her after the race.

There were 58 entrants in the Cat 5 crit. I've never raced a crit before and had little idea what to expect. Later, more experienced riders told me the course was one of the fastest they had raced. As I found out very quickly, crit racing success is all about accelerations and bike handleing. The downtown course was about 0.6 mile long and relatively flat. The key was being able to accelerate through and out of the four turns in the course to stay with the leaders. Unfortunately for me, a main peloton never really seemed to form. A few strong riders led by the Clemson team quickly pulled off the front as the accelerations and turns popped riders off the back in groups of 2 to 5. Once in a while I found relative comfort in a group of 3 or 4 riders, but even small groups broke up quickly because of all the accelerations. The race was 20 minutes plus 5 laps, which ended up being 17 laps total. At about lap 10 or 11, the announcer said that the 3rd place guy passed my group of about 6 riders. I never saw 1st or 2nd come by us. I finished the crit 16th, 4th in a group of about 8 riders.

The Cat 5 road race was 4 laps around a 6-mile hilly course. The 59 riders started the course with a mile or so of flat road, then had a long decent. Shortly after the decent was a mile-long 9% climb that worked wonders on the peleton. Two more smaller hills followed the big one before a short downhill finish. I think the peloton lost a good-sized clump of riders on the big hill on each lap, but I'm not sure. I managed to stay with the lead group on each of the four big climbs, but had absolutely nothing left each time. On the final lap, there were 18 in the front group. The Clemson team of about 3 riders tried an attack on the second to the last small hill. I momentarily lost contact with the group, but fought back on the decent. It was an all-out sprint-climb up the last small hill. Unexpectedly, the Cat 5 yellow jersey was at the back of the front group with me. I figured he'd be a good wheel to ride to the finish. He pulled me past a few folks on the decent and I finished 14 out of 18 in the front group.

The most amazing thing I saw was the winning move. William Harrison also started the final short climb with me at the back of the pack, but somehow fought his way to the front to win the race!

Shortly after we finished, I saw the finish of the masters road race. Jeff Clayton, MAX Cycling, took 3rd in a group of three that broke off the front of that race. Congratulations, Jeff.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bike Racing

I've sort of switched my focus this year after catching the bike racing bug. I raced the Cat 5 circuit race in Perry, GA, the Perry-Roubaix a couple of weeks ago. I did ok, finished 7th out of 17 (7th out of 9 in a bunch sprint).

Last weekend I raced all three races (Omnium) in Gainsville. I finished 10th out of about 25 in the time trial, 16th out of about 55 in the criterium, and 14th out of 58 in the road race. I was very pleased with all of my results considering that I haven't really done any bike training this year other than riding about 50 miles a week and doing a few hill repeats on the Computrainer.

I enjoyed the change in the competition from triathlon, and I think I'll do some more bike racing this year.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Tundra Time Trial

My wife, Betty Jean, and I drove to Paulding County on Saturday morning to ride the Tundra Time Trial. It was about 38 degrees and misting by the time we finished. It was cold, but fun. I rode the 9.5 mile, out-and-back loop at 21.5 mph, and Betty Jean posted a 19.5 mph ride. We both ended up in the middle of our respective competition groups (she's women Cat IV and I'm men Cat V).

I improved my speed by 1 mph over my test run from a month ago. My average heartrate was also a couple of beats per minute lower. I guess the training is sinking in. My average cadence was 78 rpm. My power tests say I should be at 65, but that cadence feels unreasonable on the course. I'll need to do some tests in the future on the road to see if the testing translates.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Pose Method Pace vs. Heartrate graph

Running Pace vs. Heartrate Graph

On the graph above, the square, black points are Pose data from my standard, 4-mile run course. All of the other data is the same course using my former heel-strike gait for different periods over the last couple of years. Fall of 2004 is the most efficient so far (I was training a little more then), but the Pose best-fit line is closing in fast.

I've noticed that the pose data reflects lower efficiency the longer I run (not shown on this graph). I think that will become less pronounced as my calf muscles get stronger and my body (and mind) adapt to the new stride.

Cadence vs. Power Graph

After running cadence vs. power at four different cadenses and then performing confirmation tests on three of them, this is what my cadence vs. power graph looks like:

On the three points that have confirmation data (cadences 60, 70, and 90 rpm) the higher of the two was my second test. An extra couple of weeks fo training might explain the slightly higher numbers. Or maybe I'm just getting more accustomed to a lower cadence, which felt very unusual at first, but feels comfortable now. All the tests were run at a constant heartrate of 150 bpm, which is about 10 bmp above my lactate threshold.

My next step will be to run tests at 55 rpm and 65 rpm to generate more detailed information in the vicinity where my apparent peak lies (I'm guessing 55-60 rpm). After I determine the exact peak, then I'll have to do some real-world tests to see if that cadence is maintanable. It should work well for time trials of 20 to 45 minutes, but might not be great for group rides.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Museum of Aviation 1/2 Marathon

Yesterday was my first race using the Pose method. Seven friends (which is a huge crowd for my small, rural county) and I drove to Robins Air Force Base to run the Museum of Aviation Half Marathon. I didn't really race, I stayed with a friend, Jamie, at an 8 min/mi pace for the first 10 miles or so. It was windy and pretty cool (about 42 degrees), but the course was very flat. The course is essentially one lap around the base on the exterior patrol road. Jamie and I had an interesting conversation while running the first several miles as we talked with Jim Marshall, our local congressman. He had a good race and we enjoyed speaking with him about all things running.

At mile 8 or 9, my calves started to noticably fatigue. The longest Pose run I'd done was 8 miles, so I was in uncharted territory. At about mile 10, we crested a small hill (one of the few rises on the flat course that could even be termed a hill). Jamie slowed for a drink, and I kept my pace. My calves were so fatigued, that I felt I would not be able to accelerate if I slowed to wait for Jamie to catch up, so I kept going. After another 1/4 mile or so, I gave up on the Pose method for the day. I was happy I'd made it almost 11 miles using it, but could not sustain it.

That's when in interesting thing happend. I guess I began to use some fresh muscles when I changed back to heel striking, or maybe I was just using muscles differently. Whatever the case, it felt like I'd just reclined in a Lazy-boy lounger! My pace shot to about 7 min/mile and I felt very fresh physically and mentally. I finished the race at about a 7 min/mi pace at 1:42:56 and felt quite fresh at the end. Congressman Marshall had pulled away from Jamie and I at about mile 6, but I caught him right before the finish. He probably shaved 30 seconds off my time as I used him for a carrott during the last mile.

Even if unintentionally, I guess I found a new strategy by starting with Pose and finishing with my old-faithful heel-strike when the Pose tank was empty. Whether that will be a long-term strategy, I don't know -- probably not -- but it worked yesterday.

Everyone else in our group, Jamie, Adam, David, Betty Jean, Suzanne, Pam, Cristina had good races also -- there were several PRs in the group. Even though I didn't race the course, I learned a lot about my new stride, had a very good early-season training day, and had a great time!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Orca/Half Marathon/Power test confirmation data

  • I called FreeFlite bike shop in Buckhead to discuss the purchase of an Orbea Orca. I found out two interesting things. One, it's pronounced Or-bay-a, not Or-bee-a like I thought. Second, the salesman said I'm likely to fit a 51cm Orca. I ride a 56cm Trek 5200 now and it's slightly too small for me, so 51cm doesn't sound right. He said they measure them using an unusual convention. Evidently the owner has a blue Orca just like the one I want. So I'm probably going to ride up there next week and test ride it.
  • We (my wife and I and about 5 or 6 friends) are road-tripping to Warner Robins on Saturday morning to Robins Air Force Base to run the Museum of Aviation half marathon. It's a fun race. I ran it two years ago with Abby White, a tri-friend who has moved to Florida. It's a fun, low-key run around the air force base on the patrol road. Quite flat. It's the first time that we've had a group this big going to a race together. It's nice to see that local interest in running is growing. We actually had 9 or 10 people doing a training run on Rock Eagle Road last Saturday. That's pretty unheard-of for around here.
  • I'm in the process of doing confirmation runs of my bike cadence vs. power testing data. Originally, I did tests 150 bpm rides at 70 rpm, 90 rpm, 100 rpm, and 60 rpm. My power was consistent (about 175 watts) at 70 at 90 rpm, was about 30 watts lower at 100 rpm, and about 25 watts higher at 60 rpm. The re-tests are slightly higher so far at 60 and 70 rpm, but pretty close to the initial test results. The increase is probably due more to recent training at lower paces and higher intensities than to lack of tesing precision. I'll probably run two more tests, one at 90 rpm and one at 65 rpm to populate the graph a little more densely at the low end. I'm curious to see what 50 rpm would give me, but from a practical standpoint, I don't think it's very useful. If I rode any significant distance at any significant wattage, my knees would probably blow out!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Low-cadence cycling

As I've mentioned earlier in my blog, power testing on my computrainer showed me that I produced about 15 to 20 watts more at 60 rpm than at 70 to 90 rpm. My power at 100 rpm was about 15 watts lower then the 70 to 90 range. I've always ridden at about 90, so that was a surprise to me.

I've been trying to train myself to ride at a lower cadence lately on my computrainer rides. Today was the first nice weekend day in a while, so I went out and did a 25-mile ride with my wife at about 17.5 mph. My heartrate was quite a bit below the predicted level based on my heartrate vs. speed graph that I kept from last fall's rides. It could be an anomoly, but I'm looking forward to plotting some more rides to see how they look.

I'm also looking forward to using a lower cadence on some longer rides to see how big the muscular endurance factor kicks in. It might turn out that the lower cadence is much more efficient for me on 20-40 mile rides but might not work for 80-100 mile rides due to the muscular fatigue that sets in. The lower cadence makes the ride seem 'calmer' and more fluid than the higher cadence. Even though those are subjective psychological effects, they might be helpful on difficult rides.

Pose Method 8-mile run

My experiment continues... About 4 weeks ago I quit my old running stride cold turkey and started running using the Pose method. It was almost impossible at first. The first time I ran 3 miles I could hardly walk the next day. But I've stuck with it in hopes of increasing efficiency, decreasing the chance of injury, and better using my calf muscles on the run leg of triathlons.

Yesterday I did my first long run using Pose. I ran 8 miles at about an 8 min/mile pace. My heartrate was about 3 bpm below what it was for heel-strike running a month ago. So even though my body is still adapting to the new stride and I have not even begun the video analysis of my stride to make sure I'm really doing the Pose method properly, I've already seen an increase in efficiency. Four weeks ago I though the attemp was futile, but it appears to be working.

When I temporarily switch back to my old heel-striking form, it feels like I'm speed walking compared to my new stride.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Computrainer modeled course matches real world results

After riding the Silver Comet Trail time trial last weekend, I used the elevation data that my Polar heartrate monitor gathered during the ride and recreated the course profile on my Computrainer. The slopes on the trail are small (most range between 0.1% and 0.8%) because the trail lies on an abandoned railroad bed. I added a 5 mph wind from the west because that is typical for the trail ride.

After setting up the course on the computer, I rode it trying to keep my heartrate at about 147 for the entire 10 miles. I figured that would give me a data point between the 153 bpm and 143 bpm that I got from my real-world rides. The out portion of the ride is much slower than the back stretch becase it's slightly uphill and into the wind. I averaged about 18.5 mph going out, and 22 coming back in with the wind at my back. I think my average power was about 200 watts.

I finished the Computrainer ride at 147 bpm average heartrate and and average speed of 20.0 mph. When I plotted the new data point on my graph of HR vs speed for last weeks ride, it hit dead on the line! So now I have a perfect way to try different strategies to prepare for the time trial in Feburary. Also using the 'race against previous performance' feature, I can see how different strategies (starting out easier, etc.) relate on the course to my other rides.

It's the best possible way to squeeze out all possible speed using my average abilities.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Silver Comet Time Trial Training

I drove an hour and a half yesterday to meet with my coach and some of his other clients to do some practice time trail work on the Silver Coment Trail, a multi-use trail northwest of Atlanta. It was a fun day and the weather was decent for December, but the trip generated lots of questions by me. Instead of summarizing the whole thing here, I've decided to just post the e-mail that I sent to Tony after the ride. If he answers some or all of my quesitons, then I'll post that here later also. On my first 10-mi out and back TT I averaged 153 bpm and 20.3 mph. My second ride was 143 bpm and 19.2 mph. On both rides, I had to stop and unclip a couple of times due to road crossings, etc.

Thanks for organizing the time trial practice yesterday and for keeping the data (I’m sure it got kind of boring after a while). I think I need lots of that type of training, and yesterday gave me a good example of how to set it up in Monticello. It also gave me a good preview of what to expect in the Tundra TT.

There’s lots of stuff below. I apologize in advance for being long-winded, but I have lots of questions.

Yesterday was a strange day for me. The warmup felt great and I enjoyed riding the trail for the first time, and I even ran into a friend of mine who works in Vinings and rides the trail a lot.
The first 10-mi TT felt pretty normal, even though I pushed a little harder than I would’ve when doing a TT at home. I was a little surprised that my speed was not higher – I figured on a flat course, my speed would be higher than what I’m accustomed to in sprint races (maybe the wind and the frequent road crossing contributed?).

But the real surprise was how awful I felt during and after the 2nd ride. No matter how hard I pushed, I couldn’t get my heartrate over about 145 or so – and I had very weak legs. I guess it was because my legs were loaded with lactate from the first ride. But based on my experience I thought I should have been able to ride longer than 30 minutes at the higher heartrate. After the second ride I was completely toast. When you asked me to ride a 3rd time, I couldn’t even consider it because I felt so weak. I think I didn’t eat enough before the ride, because I was shaky and getting hot and cold on the way back. I barely made it back to the Jeep at 14 mph with a wind at my back! Lunch never tasted so good, and 10 minutes later I felt fine again – so that was a good lesson in itself (don’t neglect nutrition just because it’s ‘only’ a training ride). If I had tried to ride a third time trial, I honestly might not have made 17 mph and I would have been camped on the side of the trail begging for Powerbars just to get back home!

Now that you have convinced me that my LT is really in the basement, I’m determined to properly focus my workouts to increase it. (What HR do I divide my LT heartrate by to get my LT %VO2max?) I’ll continue to do the hill repeats that we’ve discussed, and I’ll add some 10-mi TT repeats. What heartrate do you think I should be aiming for on the TT workouts? Based on yesterday, 153 bpm is far too high. Maybe I’ll try doing 10 mi at 145 and see if I can increase my speed on a follow-up 10-mi ride? I’m very interested in discussing how I can use the ‘new’ LT information to better pace myself in olympic and half iron distance races (I guess it’s just all-out in sprints no matter what?).

And lastly:
I took a closer look at my heartrate profiles from last year’s half-iron and West Point races. My average heart rates for the four 45-minute ‘quarters’ of my half-iron ride last year were 154, 149, 145, and 141 bpm (148 overall average). I obviously started quite a bit above LT and paid for it at the end (even though I stayed above LT for almost 3hrs? – I still don’t understand that – and then averaged 152 for the entire run). What would have been the effect if I’d started at 145 bpm or so and held it constant throughout the ride? Would I have had higher average speed on the bike, or similar average bike speed but better legs for the run?

Last year’s West Point oly was similar. In thirds, my average rates were: 155, 151, and 149 bpm (152 overall average).

Again sorry for the long-email, but I really want to learn how to optimize my rather limited abilities.