I’ve not been posting here as much as I should. There are a couple of topics I want to get down.
First, I rode in my first race, the Brown County road race. I mostly chose this race because there haven’t been any other USAC races around here, and I am anxious to get some racing experience under my belt. Little did I realize that this event was billed as the most difficult race in Indiana. My initial goal was just to finish, but once I rode the course, my goal became to get through more than 1 lap – the climb was nuts! I did Cat 4/5, which was 5 laps of the 5 mile course. It was pretty awesome when the group took off; I was moving around in the pack down the big descent and keeping up and all that.. then we hit the first part of the climb. I remember watching everyone in front of me slow to a crawl and the “click click click” of sixty some guys shifting all at once. After that, it pretty much ceased to be a race for me and became an endurance ride, since my terrible climbing skills had me _way_ off the back. I soldiered on through the climb, spending quality time with the little ring on my cranks for the first time in months. It really kind of sucked. As I approached the lap line, I considered giving up, because I really didn’t think I could make it up the hills again. Fortunately, the descent was fun enough, that I decided to do one more lap just to ride it. This kept me going till the end of the race. I was in the weeniest gear the whole climb; 60RPM / 4mph. I just coasted most of the descents at around 40mph.
Four days later, my legs are still sore. I wound up in 49th place – the last of the finishers, but 15 or so didn’t finish, so I feel like it was a positive outcome. The next race I’m planning is a crit in Indy the weekend after next. I really don’t know what to expect from a crit, but it’s a really flat course, so I’m hoping that I can be at least halfway competitive.
Topic 2 – Training. I tried to come up with a half-hearted pre-race training routine. It sucked. Basically, I had the first saturday and sunday off and I rode MTWThS. Monday I rode hard, working on pedal technique. It was a good, fast ride. Tuesday was a group ride that was longer than usual, with more climbing than usual, but otherwise a slow pace. I felt super strong on that ride. I climbed some hills quickly, etc. I guess I didn’t realize how hard I was putting it down that day, because my legs felt like crap Wensday and Thursday, and I ended up skipping Friday and only doing 10 miles on Saturday. My legs didn’t hurt for the race Sunday, but they didn’t feel strong either. The lesson I take away from this is: I probably shouldn’t be concerned with training. Just ride.
Somewhat along these lines, I’ve been trying to monitor my performance a bit so I can try to find things to improve on. The biggest discovery was a different way to think about pedal technique. I’ve heard lots of different advice for pedaling “circles” instead of “squares”, notably, the Carmichael videos instruct to focus on the bottom of the stroke “like scraping mud off your shoe” and “throwing your foot over the top”. This was mildly helpful, but seemed not quite right. At some point, I started thinking of my feet as repelling magnets – whatever one did, the other did the opposite around the crank stroke. The result feels like my legs are constantly “tensed” from the calf up to a bit above my knee. It _seems_ like much less power is coming from my quads, and it also seems like I am getting more power altogether.. in a smoother motion and a lower heart rate. When my legs feel strong, I can sit down and ride with this technique through a whole ride. It’s kicked my average speed up a lot and it seems to be really helpful for getting over hills. I usually end up between 105 and 115 RPM this way, which is probably over where I should be, but it seems to work out ok.
Another performance issue I’ve been thinking about is my lung function. Since I started riding half-way seriously, respiration has been a problem. I just can’t seem to get enough air. It’s usually when climbing, and when my heart rate is up over 165. (my max observed heart rate is 176) At first, I figured that I was just out of shape. Currently, most other athletic aspects have improved markedly (resting HR 52, down from 70 something, max heart rate up to 176 from 172, weight loss, etc) but I still have trouble breathing under physical stress. Belinda suggested that I might have something called Exercise induced Asthma. I didn’t think much of it until the usual post ride coughing fit hit me after the race, and I decided to get it checked out. On my initial lung function test, I got 84% of expected capacity and 92% of expected capacity with Albuterol. This is apparently inconclusive since it’s a difference of less than 10%. Tomorrow I’m going for a stress test to hopefully get more detailed data. The down side is that I have to do the test on a treadmill. I haven’t run since I started biking a lot, and I’m afraid the old knee injuries may present. Guess we’ll see.
Finally – On being a gear nerd. I have been trying to keep my head out of gear nerddom, but it’s just in my nature. I finally broke down and bought the used Dura Ace drive train that I’d been mulling over for quite a while, despite wanting to just wait until I could order a SRAM rival setup cheaply. The order window for SRAM is here, and I have no money, so I think I’m just going to keep the DA for a while. It’s currently at the shop getting installed. The other gear lust thats been haunting me is a wheelset. Like other components on my bike, my wheels, while capable, are becoming annoying. They weigh a lot and the rear hub has developed an awful clunking noise which I expect is the cassette shaft. The shop told me it was just because the hubs are cheap, which I believe. I really don’t have the money for a wheelset, but I keep hoping something light and cheap will fall into my lap. At the moment, had I the money, I think I’d go with a set of reynolds solitude’s which are around 1500g and can be had for under $400. unfortunately, I have little free cash at all, so I’m stuck with the Alex S500/joytech junk.
In other news, I promise I’ll post some non-ridelog content soon.