Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Rock 'n Rollman

I had a good ride at the Rock 'n Rollman 1/2 IM on Sunday -- I bettered last year's time by about 21 minutes and finished in 2:33:45. I'm glad I rode well, and I want to identify what I did right so it won't be a one time show. I have several theories, and it's probably some combination of all of them:

  1. More mileage - My mileage/training time since April hasn't been drastically different than what I've done in past years, but it's a little higher (150-200 miles/wk this year compared with 100-200 miles/wk last year). The real difference was during the winter months. I averaged about 150 miles per week instead of 75. And a big chunk of that riding was in the Peach Peloton in 60-135 mile rides. Those long winter rides probably helped me build a bigger aerobic base, which allowed me to keep my heart rate steady at 155 bpm (7 bpm below FT) throughout the ride instead of having it decay steadily from 155 to 130 like it did last year.
  2. Weights - I hit the weights over the winter -- mostly squats and leg extensions. I'm not sure the lifting really helped me, but it is a difference from last year.
  3. Psychology - I think this was the big one. I've never argued that the mental approach to sports performance is important, but I think this ride was the first time I took full advantage of it. There was a steady brisk breeze in our face from the start to the half way point in Roberta. Instead of bitching and moaning about the headwind (like I heard lots of my competitors doing), I was begging for it not to stop because I had convinced myself (accurately, I think), that I was more aerodynamic than most riders (small body size, TT helmet, skinsuit, tri-bike w/aero wheels, shoe covers, etc.) and that the harder the wind blew the more time I was gaining on them. Also, I didn't have to run after the bike because I was on a relay team. That allowed me to leave it all on the road, mentally and physically.
  4. No swim - Because of the relay team I didn't swim before the ride. This obviously gave me some advantage, but I don't know how much.
  5. Tandem riding - This one was unexpected. I've done some tandem riding with Betty Jean this spring. It's made me much more aware of the effect of momentum on riding rolling hills. On a tandem, momentum is a much, much bigger factor than it is on a single. I've learned that increasing the effort in the last 1/4 of a short climb can make a big difference on your speed down the back of the hill. So I jumped out of the saddle toward the end of most small climbs to maintain momentum for the decent. I'm convinced it made a difference in my downhill speed and had the added benefit of improving the blood flow to my leg muscles, which is an issue that I almost never hear mentioned but I think is important. "Attacking" the hills also was good for the mental game.
  6. Aero equipment - I picked up a LG aero helmet on eBay for $60 and a Colnago skinsuit for $40. I know they made some real difference (as much as a few minutes), but they definitely make me feel faster, and that's probably more important than their actual effect (see number 3).

Cycling improvement is a combination of lots of small things. One at a time they may not make a noticeable difference, but together they do.