Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Shaking the Damn February Doldrums

I think I'm beginning to see a pattern.

Last winter, after my hardest (and smartest) ever winter training, I lost focus in February. I became muddy-headed and posted about being as good as I'd ever get in "As Good as it Gets". Well, I wasn't as good as I'd ever get. My FTP was 235w and my 5 sec power was 870w. A year later my FTP is 285w and my 5 sec sprint is around 1150w.

Well guess what - surprise, surprise! I feel exactly the same way this February. After the best winter training I've ever done, I've hit another mental roadblock for some reason. Physically, I'm fine, but I can't shake the feeling that I've plateaued for good and it's time to carry Jake's (or Drew's or Ron's, or fill in the blank with other teammate's name) water bottle for the next 10 years - and enjoy it. (Don't get the big head, fill in the blank, I'm out to kick your ass at Worlds after every GA Cup victory).

I'm beginning to expect that February just does that to me. The long organized weekend rides are over. The the racing season hasn't really gotten it's legs yet. Four months of daily trainer work will wear you down.

Obviously, one of these Februaries I'm going to be right. I'll work harder and harder and get no stronger. But not this one. I'll just wait it out and tack another 50 watts onto my FTP. Well, maybe not 50 watts, then I'd be racing in Belgium like the red-headed kid. But 10 or 12 watts should be a cinch, right?

Mr. Christian Parrett, 2008 USA U-23 National Team
Macon, Georgia

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ifs, buts, candy, and nuts - Tundra Race Report

If youre a wide receiver that can get open every time but can't catch a cold, you won't be very effective. You have to put all the pieces together to score.

Here's what happens when you don't put all the pieces together in an out-and-back time trial:

At the Tundra Time trial on Saturday we had super weather for a February morning - sunny and 50 degrees.

I had a good warmup and felt great. I eased into the 9.5-mile course without blowing up early, and I was looking at 11:18 coming into the turnaround - good enough to significantly improve on my last-year's time of over 25 minutes.

That's when one or more of the following happened: 1. Seeking a quick turnaround, I came into the u-turn way, way too fast, 2. my adrenaline was pumping and I grabbed the brakes too hard, 3. my worn pads caught on the carbon rims and locked.

Whatever the reason - it was 100% stupidity on my part. And in about 2 milliseconds I converted my new rear Vittoria Crono Evo-CS tubular tire into useless blog fodder and ended my TT. I found myself yelling damn damn damn pretty forcefully, then looked around to make sure I hadn't scarred any kids for life with my outburst (safe on that front).

Then I asked if anyone had an extra wheel. One of the volunteers ran down a path away from the trail (to his house, I guess). A minute or two later he returned with a 1982 30-spoke, 700x26c road wheel inflated to about 70 psi (If you're reading this, Randy, I'm not complaining - beggers can't be choosers). Our first attempt to mount the wheel was unsuccessful because it rubbed the cutout in my frame. After a little work, we adjusted the wheel in the rear dropouts and, using friction to hold it in place, locked it down. It felt like I was dragging an anvil on the way back, but the fact that I noticed it at least means that my shredded wheel/tire had low rolling resistance.

In short, I screwed up and ruined an opportunity for a good result for the team and a course PR. But at least it was in a 1-day TT and not the Tour of Atlanta. I'll bet that I don't enter a u-turn too fast again - at least not until my adrenaline gets back up.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Strain-Gauge Perspective

Mostly the information I get from my power meter just provides a different angle on cycling. It doesn't make the riding and racing better, it just adds data mining to the list of things I enjoy that are associated with cycling.

But the one thing that the Ergomo provides that helps me the most is long-term perspective.

Relatively speaking, I'm no stronger in my group of riders than I was 12 months ago. On a good day, I end up in a strong front group, and on other days I get dropped like a trapeze artist with bad timing. If I had no power meter, I might think that I was no better rider now than I was last February. But the power meter tells me that I'd be wrong. I'm a much better rider now - occaisionally dropping or getting dropped by teammates who are also much better riders than they were last winter.

I know that to be true because today I went to my regular hill repeat spot and did a few 1-minute intervals. I was aiming for 60-seconds at 1.5 times FTP, or 420 watts. I decided to do the first interval based on perceived exertion, not looking at the power meter. My average for the interval was 477 watts - and I didn't kill it - I just pushed steady for 60 seconds.

To put that into perspective, you'd need to look back at a hill repeat session I did in April of 2007 at the same location. On that occaision I did 10 hill repeats, all of them about 40 to 50 seconds long, and all of them averaging between 340 and 380 watts. And I can remember that session. I remember how strong I felt and how I couldn't believe that I was holding 375 watts steady. Now I'm a hundred watts stronger for the same interval session.

While the results make me feel good, they don't guarantee race results. Those come from more than just wattage. And the competition may have power meters that are telling them good things, too.

Security Bank Training Camp

We had a team training camp in Chattanooga this past weekend. The weather was perfect and we had 3 great days of riding and climbing without so much as a flat among the 11 of us. We climbed Suck Creek a couple of times, Sand Mountain, The W, Pumping Station, and Stairstep. A few pics are shown below.

Trey and Jake cook it up

Director Sportif sports new kit

Group shot on the Brow
Stony stretches fresh lycra

Monday, February 04, 2008

Winter Ramp

Obviously there was a methodical approach to the Peach Peloton distances since November. I didn't realize until I glanced at my season TSS and mileage charts that with the exception of a couple of December blips, we had a pretty smooth ramp from 50 miles/ride to 125 miles/ride throughout the winter.