30 January 2012

Thoughts and impressions from the first race

The first cut is the deepest, according to the venerable Ms. Crow, and the cut(s) from yesterday are still fresh as well. Without rehashing too much, at my first ever cycling road race yesterday I learned several things about myself, road racing, and cycling in general.

Always give yourself more time than you think you need. I had plenty of time once I got to the site, that is until I got to the time I needed to put my bike in the trainer and found out that my trainer doesn't want to work with a rear wheel on a quick-release (why, I don't know. I'll have to try to figure that out!). So I had to, at the last minute, try to get in a few minutes of warm-up on the road. That meant that my warmup was less than ideal, and a LOT shorter than I wanted, which in turn resulted in a less-than-ideal start. In turn, that meant that I forgot to take my pre-race fuel, though I had gotten a really good breakfast in so I don't think that hurt much, if at all. So, I had more than enough time to do everything as long as everything went properly. It didn't, and I didn't have enough time to switch gears.

When possible, pre-ride the race route. I mean, I already know this, and I would have slow-ridden the course last week if I'd had prior knowledge of exactly where it would be. I'll explain that a bit below, and it has other ramifications as well.

I need to seriously improve my training efforts if I'm to compete at the level I'd like. I know my training regimen is light compared to a lot of the guys I'm competing against, but now I see how glaring the difference is.

Though training on knobby tires on the road is a pretty good way to build up strength and stamina, it also helps to own and occasionally ride a road bike. I had to rent a bike for the race, which is fine as far as it goes, but having my own road bike for that race would have made a little bit of a difference. In fact, if Providence allows I would prefer to have and train most of the time on my own road bike and use my mountain bike for occasional hard efforts on the road, plus (gasp!) off-road biking.

Now, about the knowledge problem. The flyer for the race, as posted to the USA Cycling website, described that the race would be held at a particular place, and would be run along a particular road. It did not describe what direction the race would be run in, nor exactly where the start and finish lines would be. The organization that put on the race has done this same road race for at least four years now, and races in earlier years were in a different location along a different road. This organization has also had significant problems the last few weeks with keeping their website online, and had not updated the site in several months prior, which means that the "current events" race flyer for this particular race was for last year. There was a significant lack of information available prior to the race and I'm disappointed in this organization for that. A different organization which sponsors a three-day stage race here in town, which isn't until March, has already produced a full Race Bible for this year's race, including complete map and turn-by-turn directions for each stage. They've also kept their website updated. Logic would say "well, don't use the organization that sponsored this race in the future" ... except that they've previously done very well, it seems, and have been doing this for several years. I don't know if there's been some kind of political stuff going on, or if perhaps their organization crew is recently new, or if the fact that this year's event was earlier than in years past made it difficult for them to get organized like they would have liked. I suppose time will tell, but I'm going to be very careful in dealing with them in the future.

All in all, I learned some valuable lessons, gained some critical insights into myself and this sport, and will do much better from here out. Allez! Allez! Allez!

29 January 2012

Finished !

I did indeed finish the race, as can be seen here and here, and a little later on the BikeReg site. I completed in about 48 minutes (official results not ready yet), with an average speed of 15.16 mph (24.4 kph), and with an average HR of 177. Let's compare that to the goals.

First, did I finish? Yep. Finished and had fun!
Second, did my LT HR improve? Yep. Current estimated LT of 173 was exceeded during an entire time trial, for a new LT HR of 177.
Third, was my average speed > 15 mph? Yep again! Not by much, mind you, but still.

So I feel very happy with today's results, and I think that this is evidence that I can continue to work hard and train smart and do very well in this field.

Now, for the wouldn't it be awesome goals.

First, placing. I don't yet know where I placed, but I am fairly certain that I am indeed 5th of 5 masters 40+. I may not have been the slowest cat 5 racer there, but I won't know that until later either. 
Second, average speed > 18 mph. I was not able to achieve this goal, and having done it it was not realistic. If I had my own road bike, sized properly, with aero bars and deep rims I might have been able to streamline a little bit, but the truth is that it's not the bike that's holding me back. I just need to continue to lose weight and train and that will be the best solution for that.

Right now I feel tired. I need a nap. More later.

28 January 2012

Goals for tomorrow

So. As you already know, first race (of my life, and of this season) is tomorrow, the Race Against Time Time Trial out near Marana, AZ. So today, I thought I'd sit down and spell out what my specific goals and dreams are for tomorrow.

First, the goals:

1) Finish. It's a 20 km time trial, and I routinely ride 30+ on training rides, so finishing should definitely be attainable.
2) Show an improved LT HR. Currently, I am working with an estimated LT HR of about 173 BPM. Hopefully, at the end of this time trial, I will find that my LT HR is 174 or 175. That would be nice.
3) Average > 15 mph. This would be a fair jump, though my current avg speeds are done at a much lower tempo and HR goal than this race requires. So this may be within the realm of feasibility.

Second, the "wouldn't it be awesome if" goals:

1) Finish higher than 5th of 5 in my racing category. I'd love it if I weren't last :D
2) Average > 18 mph. Not really feasible I don't believe, though I have two things working for me here: first, I train only on my mountain bike (because it's all I have), and second, the fact that I'm going to be working much harder than normal. With the much reduced rolling resistance and better characteristics, as well as the whole "pushing harder" part, I should be able to ride quite a bit faster than normal. How much faster remains to be seen.

And finally, the "dreams":

1) Win. Not in my first race, probably not, but dream big right!
2) Average > 23 mph.

Packet pick up is later today, as well as the pick up of the rental bike. When I get finished tomorrow I'll post some notes about how it went and how I felt.

27 January 2012

Race prep and thoughts

So today is Friday, race eve eve for my first ever bike race. Just so happens that the first race of the season down here is a time trial, the Race Against Time TT ( http://www.usacycling.org/events/getflyer.php?permit=2012-173 ), north of Marana, AZ.

I'm going over my list of things I need to do, and stuff I need to pack. I'm reorganizing race morning in my head, and I'm getting myself all excited for race day. I haven't been this excited about a day since probably Christmas of 1981. I'll have more thoughts about it tomorrow for sure.

03 January 2012

My blood will paint the way to the future ...

Well, maybe not blood as much as sweat. Sweat and tears.

This week is the first week of the new Annual Training Plan (ATP), and it started with a good weight workout and zone 1-2 spin at the gym. The current phase of weights is the Muscle Strength, so lots of weight, small number of reps, lots of sets.

The ATP that I have is a straight progressive periodization plan, with progressive increases in training hours and Training Stress Score (TSS) during each successive week and during each successive phase (with built-in recovery and rest), until the Race week where the TSS and hours trained slides well down to allow for a final recovery before racing.

Before I get too deep into the nitty gritty (which probably should be a separate post anyway), I'd like to take a moment to examine my goals and training objectives for the 2012 cycling road racing season.

First, the goals:

  • Lose weight; I'd like my specific weight by the end of the year to be around about 165 pounds (down about 55 more pounds), with a "wouldn't it be wonderful if ..." weight of about 150 pounds, which represents an additional 70 pounds lost.
  • Start ten to twelve mass-start races in the current season, which will be enough to upgrade to Cat 4 for next season.
  • Improve same-kind race metrics over the course of the season (i.e., TT speeds late in season should be higher mile-over-mile with similar HR/power output vs. earlier in season; crit speeds should be higher, etc.)

Second, the training objectives:

  • Be able to finish my Pistol Hill training ride in about 90 minutes without pushing my HR into the 5a or higher HR zones.
  • Raise LTHR by 3-5 BPM (or alternately increase power output at the same LTHR by 20-30 watts as measured on the power meter in the spinners at the gym, with a preferable wattage of 210-220 for 30 minutes at LTHR on those machines).
  • Stay within about 10% of the TSS and total training volume in 90% of the weeks during the season.

Third, the pie-in-the-sky dreams:

  • Win my age/cat in at least one race
  • Place in the prize pool for at least 3 races
  • Signup for and finish the 109-mile el Tour de Tucson in less than 5 hours, or the 94-mile Cochise County in less than 4 hours 15 minutes (thus qualifying for Platinum status for the 2013 el Tour de Tucson).
  • Place in the prize pool for the Tucson Bicycle Classic
Oh, and I know everyone wants to hear about New Year's Resolutions and such. I don't do NY resolutions. I believe 100% that if you recognize that you want to change something, or do or be something different, you should get to that right away. I didn't wait for New Year's to start cycling or training or losing weight, I started it the moment it started to bother me. But if you must, consider the above my resolutions :)