Monday, August 3, 2009

I Want A Bigger Triangle

As promised, after focusing on climbing and endurance for the Mt Hamilton climb, I took some time off and have been focused on speed again. I have been reading Arnie Baker's ACE training book on training for the Death Ride, and he has a nice illustrative device, the fitness triangle, to explain the competing dimensions of fitness focus. Speed, endurance and power are at the three ends of the triangle, and if you increase one, the other two suffer.

He goes on to point out that even very fit professional riders have these competing constraints, so pick your poison and focus on what you need to excel in your event. Events like the TDF make this nearly impossible, as the course is constructed to ferret out any weaknesses so that the strongest overall athlete wins. These athletes still have triangles, they just have BIGGER triangles. The way you get a bigger triangle is by carefully stair-stepping the three on top of each other to peak at the top of an upward cascade of building cycles.

The last month I have slowly been getting back to training, although not for an event, which is the only time one can work on the ends of the triangle neglected by necessity in targeting specific events. In my case, I have been working on speed, VO2max, max threshold power, and anaerobic conditioning. One of our group members, Marsh, has a ride he leads with a tandem. It's a speed run where he challenges those with 1/2 bikes to keep up with he and Andrea. Marsh is a big gregarious guy, loves to eat and enjoy the good things in life, and is a bit overweight for good biking form, but loves to ride.

Andrea is pretty fit, and on the flats weight doesn't make a bit of difference anyway. Sitting behind Marsh, Andrea didn't have a hair out of place, even riding into a 15 mph headwind. The stoker's life is truly a charmed one. With someone else to worry about navigation, maneuvering, watching for obstacles, and braking, they get to sit up, look around at the scenery, and chat with all the 1/2 bikes that inevitably line up in long pacelines behind them.

Pushing hard to keep up with a tandem's inherent advantages

As you can see from the HR trace, we pushed pretty hard going downwind, and then up a short, but steep hill (I won the hill climb! :D) One of the guys, Rick, showed up with a recumbent, and after beating him to the top of the hill, he had ideas to beat me soundly heading home into a 15mph wind.

We took a 10 minute break at the top of the hill before plowing into the wind. At about the 1 mile mark Rick passed Marsh and Andrea, and I sprinted and went with him. Those recumbents don't leave much of a wake to draft off of, so I had to push hard to stay on his wheel, but with winds that heavy, any help is welcome. About a mile later I passed Rick in a climbing turn, but flatted soon after.

A bumper-crop of berries and their thorns this year. I HATE flats!!!

While I gave my bike mouth-to-mouth, they all waited patiently and seemed insistent that I lead them out. After the restart, I stayed out front in spite of Rick's repeated attacks, all the way over the William Pond Bridge.

I pulled the plug a few hundred yards from the rendezvous point to cool down, and Rick took his victory in beating me there. No problem. It was important for him to feel good about his ride to finish first, and for me to know I could have stayed in front of him for another half hour, so I was happy to show some good sportsmanship and give him his victory. I will say though, that heading into the wind, those recumbents are super slippery, and he was doing a lot less work than the rest of us.

Marsh, Andrea and the other 2 riders showed up 2-3 minutes later, so we must have really put the hurt on them. :D You can see the extra effort required to maintain the high pace in my HR trace starting just after mile 14. It was a really fun ride, and nice to see Marsh on a road bike for a change as he is one of our favorite mtn bike ride leaders.

Rob gets a nice shot of Savorn, Denise, and I before the hammering started

Sunday I joined a small group of riders from my club and we did the "Bread & Butter Beal's" - more or less. We did change the side of the lake we rode up and back on, but otherwise it was pretty standard except that I extended the ride by returning via William Pond instead of Bannister Pk. I knew this could turn into a real flat out butt-kicker because Savorn is light and strong, smoked the Davis Double Century, and has good endurance - in short he has a big triangle!

I had not ridden with Denise before, but she had the lean, muscular build I fear in climbers. At my prodding, Savorn was also one of 2 riders from our club that purchased aerobars for the Davis Double, so I knew he could be fast in the flats too.

As it turned out, Rob met us at the meetup spot, so four of us took off with Denise leading us out. She set a pretty good pace at around 20 mph - which I think she later regretted as us guys all took that as a sign she wanted to push the pace. I stayed with her and we talked for a half hour or so until we got into some hills. Savorn threw a chain so everyone stopped, well, I slowed down a lot, but kept my legs and heart moving. They caught up and passed me and I jumped on the back and drafted along Lake Natoma. It was a lot of fun flying along with the wind at our back in a nice long line, as we now had a rabbit and a couple of trailers.

Once we hit the bottom of the Beal's climb Savorn and Rob took off. I stayed with Denise until we got into the steep section of the bottom climb and then went past her and tried to bridge up to the guys. They were definately trying to put the hurt into me, and were staying just out of reach. I finally caught them at the Johny Cash Bridge, where we stopped to wait for Denise. Well, I didn't stop, just slowed way down again, as I saw she was only a hundred yards behind and shouted this back to the guys.

As you can see from the above trace, we flew up Beal's, and I pegged my HR at 100% of max a couple of times, finishing off at 11mph on the 8% grade at the top. We were all blowing pretty hard when we coasted up to the picnic area and dismounted. It was absolutely perfect weather. Sunny but only about 70 degrees with the wind still blowing good and hard.

We took about 15 minutes and headed back down. Denise lead us out but I passed her in a turn approaching the bridge as it was clear she wouldn't be able to stay ahead of me on the downhill. Have I mentioned I go downhills like on a rocket sled? Compact weight, technique, and good bike setup for sure, but maybe something else too. Rob was on my wheel for a few hundred yards, but I lost him sprinting downhill through the hairpin turns. I got a split second glimpse of Lourdes and Mary coming up, and then got back into an aerobar tuck and pushed a bit.

Taking a Beal's break at the picnic area at the top. Rabbit guy in background

After waiting for the group to reform at the bottom, we took the new Greenback bridge over the river and came back on the east side of the lake. This is a new route for me, and I am liking it, so when Rob suggested it I gave my hearty endorsement. I led the group across the bridge and made a few circles to bring up the rear. The wind was just ferocious and it was bothering Denise a lot. I stayed back with her, but realized I was sucking on her wheel, so I went ahead and tried to set a draft for her.

Unfortunately, the turns and hills make it very difficult to set a pace on that side of the lake. I set a pace for 17 only to drop her on each hill and turn. Despite my best efforts I ended up dropping her, and unfortunately, don't think I helped her much at all. I should have set a constant power, rather than speed pace, but didn't think of it till I got home. If I hadn't been so concerned with blocking her at the bottom of a hill, and killing her momentum, things would have gone much better.

I finally put my head down, poured on the power, bridged up to Rob and Savorn at the approach to the Aquatic Center, and asked them to slow down. I led them through the complex and under the Myrtle Ave bridge nice and slow, but picked up the pace as Savorn appeared on my wheel. We were talking in good conversational tones there, so the pace was as advertised, 17-20, but by the time we got back to Sunrise it was clear we'd pushed Denise a bit too hard. I apologized to her for my part in that, and hope it doesn't put her off from riding with us again.

After a drink at the fountain I found myself clipping in while Savorn and Rob sped away. It took me 5 minutes to reel them in, and then pass them. Rob called "PACE" and blew up and I let Savorn go a few minutes later and was dropping back to Rob when I had ANOTHER flat, and in exactly the same spot as on Wednesday's ride. I had just put on tire protection strips, so was furious! I also had no spare tube with me as I have had a rash of flats and blowouts and have now used up 7-8 tubes in 10 days. (Bikesomewhere ran out and canceled those I just ordered too..arrrggghhh)

No way I'm getting 'chicked' on the flats!

Rob was happy to see me, and thankfully, was happy to part with a spare tube. I felt fine, and Savorn rode back to find us, but I knew I had spent a TON of time in Zone 5, sometimes at max, so when they let me lead out I was intending to pick a nice slow pace.

If you look at the trace, you can see that lasted for about 30 seconds, until a woman riding a sleek Cervelo P2C blew by me. The speed box on the chart marks the spot. No way I was getting 'chicked' on the flats! I sprinted for 150 yards to catch her, and we rode all the way back to William Pond together. Humm, how to be diplomatic here.... the view was spectacular! :D There is just something about the beauty of a perfectly curvaceous surface, which is at the same time powerfully functional, that is very visceral. Hey, I'm middle-aged, not dead! The girl was pretty hot too ;)

I thanked her for the race and waited for a couple of minutes for Rob and Savorn to show up. I was proud of Savorn that he slowed down and pulled Rob as Rob was wrecked. We said our good-byes and I headed home. I must have been fully loaded with glycogen, because I only ate half a Powerbar, and still had enough to sprint up the little 10% grade coming home.

I was just exhausted starting about 2 hours later, and have been pretty darned tired ever since. The last few rides I have been spending between 30 and 50% of the time in Zone 5, and all things considered, am not doing too bad - at least until this last one. As far as I can tell, from Arnie Baker's book, I'm officially deceased, so feel pretty good relative to that!

I am supposed to do another ride up to Beal's tomorrow evening. We'll see how I feel. I might have to restrain myself and stay out of Zone 5. Sigh.... I wanna B 20 again!

PS: This one is for my friend Lourdes, whose spin/cadence drills on the bottom of the Beal's climb I missed last week. Cadence rulz!


Anonymous said...

CPR for you bike? That's funny!

Now I know where you got that tandem idea from;-)

Gotta Run..Gotta Ride said...

Scott always passes me on the downhills...BUT I turn the tables as soon as we start climbing. He hates that :)))))

Flats SUCKS....

Why in the world would anyone cycle in a cotton short. Please tell me no.

Grey Beard said...

:D Yeah, CPR, because my pump was just out of reach and I needed to get the tube rounded out before installation! Yeah, tandems rule - on the flats! ~ same weight, rolling resistance, drag, and TWICE the power! Mmmmmmm ... come get some girl! :D

Oh, I love it Robin! Keeps Scott from getting a big head? You must have a better power:weight ratio then, or better gearing, or both. Putting the hurt to your

Yeah, cotton shorts, uuugh. Rob wasn't wearing a helmet either, but didn't think of it till later. Not allowed on bike club rides without helmets. Humm, humm, about flats, THEY SUCK!!!

I'm still pretty tired today from all the Zone 5. No Tango for the tired :(

Mild chest pains for 3 days now. Nothing to be alarmed about, but know I pushed super hard. I think it's time move on to intervals and aerobic threshold work, but you must both get what a relief it is for me to put this bent ticker demon behind me, or at least, in perspective.