Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Season Update

Tulsa Tough consisted of 3 crits. This is Oklahoma’s biggest cycling event and has the largest (100+) and fastest field that I’ll encounter all season. It pulls riders in from virtually the entire country.

Friday night was a testosterone filled crash fest. Everyone wanted to prove they were “Tulsa Tough” and some people tried to show us by taking horrible lines and riding sketchy. Jeremy had a good first half and he was being aggressive up in the top 5. I, on the other hand, raced like a big weenie. Obviously I wasn’t mentally ready to race because I felt great but just didn’t do anything. The good news about the night was that all of Team Undiscovered kept both wheels on the ground. We were joking around that we may have been the only team to not have a rider crash in that race.

Saturday was earlier and therefore slightly warmer. It still wasn’t too bad. Again, I didn’t really do anything to make the race, but I did keep my legs fresh and kept better positioning. In the last few laps I was steadily making it up towards the front. With 2 laps to go a few riders in front of me went really wide in a turn and were forced up onto the sidewalk. I had to bail onto sidewalk to avoid hitting them and lost about 50 spots.

Sunday’s course has a challenging climb each lap. That benefits my strengths a lot more than the flat crits of Friday and Saturday. The heat was definitely an issue, but the huge, drunk crowd at the top of the hill each lap kept my mind off the pain/fatigue. I really wanted to make a move early on the final lap because I knew I wouldn’t have a good sprint. Looking back, it was the move to make because a lot of guys were hurting. Plus, I rarely get results if I don’t take chances. Unfortunately, going along with the weenie theme of the weekend, I waited for the sprint. I didn’t get the great finish I wanted (27th), but when over 40 guys DNF a race, just finishing in the main field is an accomplishment.

The main takeaway from the weekend was that I needed more experience in big crits. I race fine when the field is controllable, but in a fast race of this size, with a great caliber of athletes, I get too skittish and stop racing. I’ll add that to the “lessons learned” for next season. I plan on doing some of the bigger Texas crits to try to get mentally prepared for Tulsa Tough. I was physically prepared this year, but that will only take you so far.

OKC Crit –

The organizers are trying to make this into a big event like Tulsa Tough. I think it has the potential, but Saturday’s course needs to go. The road condition was terrible and it was a boring course for the riders and spectators alike.

The weekend started off poorly for Brad, Brian and I. For the first time in each of our lives, we missed the start of the race. We were still on the course warming up. On one lap nobody was at the starting line. On the next lap everyone had already taken off. Fortunately we were only about 200m back and were able to work together to catch back on. Going anaerobic right from the gun will really take a beating on your performance though.

The race ended in my favorite manor…a field sprint (that is sarcasm) and I finished midpack yet again. I was still kind of in the same funk that I was in since Tulsa Tough. My fitness was good enough to hang in, but not good enough to give me the confidence I needed to win.

The next day was on a better course. It has nice wide corners and the laps are short enough to be spectator friendly. I was actually feeling a lot better this day than the rest of my recent races. With about two laps to go I found Joey and told him I’d give him a pull to the front so hopefully he’d stay fresh for the sprint. We got split up, but I ended up putting myself in prime position going into the final turn. A few guys divebombed the inside line (I never get tired of that) and the two guys in front of me both swung way wide. Evan (one of the guys that had to go wide) was able to recover and still get a decent finish but I lost a bunch of spots and ended up 13th. I know I didn’t have winning legs, but I think a top 5 would have been possible if the squirrels decided to sit in the back where they belong instead of slamming on the brakes in the last turn because they chose the idiot-line.

I didn’t have power data for the last few races because my powertap wasn’t working (user error). My training during the week didn’t consist of many hard efforts because most of the week was spent recovering from the racing. Going in to the state TT I really had no idea where my legs would be or what I was capable of.

To make matters worse, I did a hot and hilly 100k ride the day before the TT.

I kept an eye on my watts to make sure I wasn’t going over threshold, but that wasn’t a problem. I don’t think I could have gone over my normal threshold even if I tried! My bike was uncomfortable, I wasn’t well rested, and my performance was sucking. Those are all great things. I still broke the 1 hr mark for a 40k, but I knew that during my peak I would have been a few minutes faster. My power was between 40 and 50 less than what my FTP was. Needless to say, I wasn’t the state champ.

After my performance at the TT I decided to take some time off from the bike. Instead, I got a few running workouts in and some swimming, but nothing too stressful. After a week I was back on the bike. All of my efforts were aerobic. I was trying to get out of the funk I was in.

Did it work? It’s too early to tell. The Draper Duathlon weekend was all I’ve done since then. In the 3 weeks leading up to it I put in 18 miles of running over 5 workouts. In the 4 weeks before that I had only run once for 2 miles. Needless to say, my run wasn’t where it needed to be for a longcourse duathlon (10k run, 43 mile bike, 10k run). Plus, it was the national championship race so a lot of people came in from out of state to try and qualify for worlds.

The first run was really boring. I was just trying to stay aerobic, run smooth, and not waste energy. I lost an eternity on the leaders, but as far as Okies go I was still in decent position.

The first lap of the bike felt good. I was passing quite a few people, including the 2 guys I thought were leading my age group. I took a Hammer Gel as soon as I got up to speed and both of my bottles were filled with Heed. This presented a problem. My stomach didn’t react well to something…probably a mix of running 10k and consuming too many calories too quickly on the bike. I only had Heed with me to drink, so my choices were to keep drinking calories and upsetting my stomach or to cut back on fluid to see if the stomach comes around. I chose somewhere in the middle and started dehydrating AND had stomach issues.

After the first lap I should have ditched my heed bottles and grabbed water, but I didn’t. I just kept on trucking. My power was lower than my goal, but the PE was right where I wanted it. I didn’t know how my legs would react to that first 10k of running, so I didn’t really have a good idea of what type of power I should put out on the bike.

On the third and final bike lap I got out of the saddle for a second and my legs cramped. The cramps went away when I sat back down, but my hamstrings were getting really tight and I couldn’t stretch them. My saddle must be a little high, because as my legs tightened up I could tell I was having to really reach for each pedal stroke and it really threw me off my game. There was a guy whom I almost caught that was out of sight again. I was losing quite a bit of time quickly.

My legs felt awful on the second run. I don’t think it was from going too hard on the bike. I think it was from the dehydration and poor bike fit. I came off the bike in about 7th position I think. I had visions of becoming a national champion and told myself I just had to keep running. I told Trey Cone the same thing when I saw him walking. He was in front of me and was having a great race but the heat was catching up to him. A few minutes later, I couldn’t heed my own advice and walked a few seconds. I picked it up again, but shortly after the turnaround I was caught by Bryan Journey, a long-time friend of mine who is in my age group. Knowing I wasn’t leading my age group anymore made me walk a little more. The funny thing is, I never was in the lead. The guy in 2nd overall was in my age group and he was flying. I never had a chance.

Anyway, on the second lap I got to run with Martha for a little while. She was on her first. It was nice to have somebody to run with but eventually I had to pick it up a bit to keep the next guy in my age group from catching me. I was in rough shape at the finish. I limped up to the ice bath and got in for a few seconds to try and drop my core temp. I wanted to see Sarah finish so I started heading to the finish line. Things started getting blurry and I thought I might pass out, so I got somebody to walk over to the finish line with me to make sure I didn’t fall over.

I ended up 15th overall, 3rd place Oklahoman, and 3rd in my age group. For the training I did, I can’t complain. I qualified for worlds, but whether or not I go depends on the location.

The next morning was brutal. I didn’t know how I would do another duathlon. At the end of the weekend I was going to have run as many miles as I had in the last 3 months combined. My hamstrings were worse than anything. I had won the overall award for the on-road/off-road duathlon the year before, so I had to suck it up and defend.

Things started feeling a bit better when the race started. I got in the lead pack of runners and we almost immediately shaved the field down to 4 guys. I was pretty confident I would be the fastest on the mountain bike so there was no reason to try to push the pace, but it was a moot point anyway since after 1.5 miles I was almost completely gassed. The 4th place finisher from last year went to the front and dropped the hammer. He was gone in no time. I wasn’t worried about him at all. He did the same thing last year, but then he took an eternity in transition and was riding some cheap, old bike. He lost a ton of time on the bike and I was able to beat him, even though he was a great runner.

At the water station I stopped to get a drink and the other 2 guys kept going. They were gone too. For the last part of the run I just tried to limit my losses and hoped that I would quickly catch the three guys in front of me.

I caught one after about 5 minutes. The next one ended up taking a wrong turn. He realized it quickly and got back on the trail, but not before I was able to go through. Since I didn’t see him, I wasn’t sure which guy it was. I figured it was the fast runner/cheap bike guy.

When I came through after the first lap I asked a volunteer what position I was in and they said “2nd by 2 minutes.” 2 minutes? Mike was in site earlier that lap. If he put two minutes on me, he was flying.

On the next lap they told me I was in 2nd by 10 seconds. When I got onto the fire road I saw the leader and realized it was the fast runner. As I got closer I realized he was no longer on a hoopty bike. He wasn’t taking bad lines either. In fact, he was going fast! I sat on him for about 5 minutes and told him how strong he was riding. He told me he had been training for this race ever since last year. I don’t know why I expect myself to get better but don’t assume everyone else is making big improvements too.

I knew at this point he had the race won. His run was way too fast for me. I eventually made the pass to try and distance myself from 3rd place.

The second run was painful. It was hot and muggy in the trails. Luckily it was only a 5k and I was able to keep running. Chris (the fast runner) passed me in the first kilometer or so. I ran the rest solo and finished about a minute in front of 3rd. He was closing on me pretty quickly though. I was happy to have the fastest bike split of the day. I only did 3 or 4 rides on my mountain bike this summer and people kept talking about some expert class rider who was going to tear it up.

All-in-all it was a good weekend. It gave me a good vision of where I am now and what I need to do in order to reach my Redman goal in September. The two big things are my long run and my bike fit. My swim has actually been coming around pretty good.

This weekend I’ll be racing the Sapulpa crit. That will be a good indicator as to whether or not my base training these past few weeks has helped or hurt my overall fitness. The way I was skating last night, I’m pretty sure it has helped.

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