Yesterday started a string of four consecutive weekends of racing- three bike TTs, one 4 mi. road race (all of those in 8 days), the Mooseman Oly and Pirate Sprint Tri. It wasn't my intention to cram so many races into a short period, it's just how it worked out. I also threw in two of the time trials so Nick could join me. He loves riding my former TT bike, and let's face it- any time you can get a nearly-14 year old to do something with you, you jump at the chance. He did the bike portion of a sprint tri last fall and did great despite the pouring rain.
Crank the Kanc is clearly the best test of bike fitness each year. There isn't a swim before or run after to muddy the waters and affect the effort, and it's length really sets it apart from other TTs. Yesterday was the third year in a row for me. I didn't care about my place- there are many more biker-only types there who are faster. I didn't care about my time- weather conditions make a huge difference. For example, the entire race travels approximately west, so even a slight breeze can make a big difference. The only thing about time and place I cared about was how I did relative to the many folks from this area that raced. It's an ego thing, you know. We all know how prior years went, and we're all looking for improvement. What I really cared about was DATA. It's hard to come up with a more pure test of fitness. There are no corners, intersections, or meaningful downhills. It's point the bike west, start pedaling, and go hard for more than an hour. Find the red line, and try to stay right there, especially when it hurts.
The course is rolling for about 16.6 mi, slightly up, all big ring, with only a couple of downhills that you can glide- but really shouldn't. Yesterday I only stopped pedaling once, and for about 10 yards. I also stood up a couple of times to loosen up my back. Then the road turns up for 4.9 mi, all small ring. There are a few spots where you can shift out of the easiest gear, but in general it's a long hard grind.
Last year I made great improvements over 2008. My average power went from 262w to 276w, and I was consistent- I was just 3w higher on the hill compared to the lead-in (as opposed to a 12w difference in '08). I didn't feel my bike conditioning was up to last year's level, but I decided to target the same power- 275w. At the start, I easily pedaled at 300w+, constantly telling myself to back off and searching for the right power / cadence / feel combination. The first 20 minutes flew by. I knew I'd hit the hill around 45-47 minutes. The second half of the lead-in was uncomfortable, especially in my lower back and crotch. In a strange sort of way, I was looking forward to the hill just so I could sit up and change positions. Again, this is a straight shot, so there's no opportunity to change positions or stretch out. Last year I averaged 275w for this portion. this time when I hit the hill, I looked at my average power and saw 279w. Great!
There isn't much to tell about the hill, other than it's tough. I averaged 283w, so again it was consistent with the first part and an improvement (5w) over last year. At the end I let it all out, crossed the line, was able to get my shoes out of the pedals, but couldn't move. Luckily Mark B was there to help me dismount- thanks Mark! In the two prior years, the ride back down was torture. My ass hurt the whole way, and the last thing I wanted to do was sit on my bike. This year it didn't hurt at all, and actually had a pleasant ride back down. I knew it would be important to have a good recovery so I could race the next day.
The results still haven't been posted online, but I have analyzed the data. My peak 60 min. was 281w, and 20 min was 291w. When I compare those numbers to all rides and races over the last 12 months starting June 2009 (248w and 283w), I'm thrilled. In fact, I have NEVER put up numbers like that.
Turn the page to today. Nick and I got up early for the Freeport TT (18 mi). I had everything timed out just right. We went out for a warmup, and about 2 miles from the start Nick got a nice piece of glass in the rear tire. I called Christine, who was just arriving to watch, and she came and picked Nick and the bike up. I pretty much sprinted back to the start because we had about 15 min to our starting time. Luckily, I had my training wheels with us. I put on the rear, telling Nick that it's a 9-speed bike and a 10-speed wheel, so the gears might not be smooth. We then went over to the start line and had about 2 min to spare. That isn't what you'd call an ideal warmup period. I had figured, well, given yesterday's race and what just happened, the pressure's off. Don't worry about the results.
Yeah, right. When I started, I just let it all out. I attacked the course, and the adrenaline kept up a strong effort (normalized power of 303w) for the first 5 miles. That seemed fine so I figured I would keep it up and see what happened. There were a few downhills where I coasted to recover, which made a huge difference. At mile 14, I figured there were only 4 miles to go, not too long to suffer, so I kept up the pace. I ended with an average power of 279w and normalized 293. My peak 10 minutes was 298w, compared to 295 on Saturday. For a race that was a very low priority, and on a day that didn't start well, I feel great about the numbers.
As for Nick, he started 30 seconds behind me. Soon after the start, the road makes a 90 degree bend to the left, crosses RR tracks, and goes up a steep, short hill. He threw his chain at that point, and had to stop to fix it. He then had trouble clipping back into the pedals on the hill- also, yesterday was the first day he had ever used proper bike shoes.
After I finished, I rode the course backwards until I found him. As we made our way up the final hill before the finish, he said "THIS SUCKS." Music to my ears, as long as he felt good about the race after the finish- which he does. TTs, or most any race, is supposed to suck. If it didn't, you didn't go hard enough. His time was 1:05, had an average power of 180w, and speed of 17.0. That's for someone who, while athletic, does zero sustained effort training and hasn't been on a TT bike in 8 months. He finished in 2nd place in the under-18, and walked away with a $30 gift card for Beans! That's more than I can say! As for next week, he definitely still wants to do the Cape TT. That's good news.
Very proud Papa here.