Monday 25 June 2012

An amazing weekend of road racing!!

This weekend the City of Devon was again host of a fantastic bicycle spectacle, the Devon Grand Prix of Cycling 2012 (link downloads a pdf file). I participated on Saturday in the United Cycle Downtown Criterium Provincials and on Sunday the Juventus Genessee Hills Road Race. It was my first Criterium in Category 2 and I was pretty nervous since these crits are a sink or swim. You've got to be 100% committed if you want to finish with the main pack and you have to stay always alert as crashes happen often due to the speed and the exhaustion of the riders. In our category we had to cover 40 laps of approximately 900 metres. And man, this race was fast! We averaged 45 km/h and I had an average heart rate of 163 and a maximum heart rate of 185! I cannot remember when I had 185 bpm on a bike! It was crazy! Also from a power perspective this race was quite interesting. I spent 48 % in "active recovery" (24:06 min), i.e. from 0-195 watts due to coasting, and 23 % in the neuromascular zone (11:15 min), i.e. from 534-MAX. The remaining 29 % were evenly distributed over the remaining zones in between these two extremes. Here is a nice visualization of the work done:
The winner of the race Dan Wood (ERTC), actually crashed and had some intense road rash on his right thigh and shoulder. After he crashed (~6 laps to go), he managed to get back and win the race! This was pretty impressive!

The next morning at 9 am we started for our 127 km ride and the weather was quite windy but beautiful. At about 10 km into the race there was an attack, initiated by Josh I believe, and a few other riders and me followed. This was when I felt that my legs were still torched up from the crit the night before. We eventually got caught and I was afraid I won't play a big role today since my legs felt pretty empty. After about 10 more kilometres, Josh launched another attack while we were having cross-winds. The attack was perfectly set and again, a few other riders and me were back in the break. We really were working very hard together for the first kilometres and then managed to find a rhythm that worked for everyone in the break. It was great riding with these guys and we were increasing our lead. At some point we also collected a Velocity guy, who took off sometime after our first attack and stayed away till then. He managed to hang on when we were passing him and also started working with us. At the turnaround we could see our gap and it was quite impressive! Our group got motivated right away and sped up again. With about 30 km to go, quite a few hard attacks were launched just for 100 metres or so to shake off people. And guess what, Dan Wood, the guy who left quite some skin on Athabasca Ave in Devon was attacking and eventually made it first into the finish! What a performance! When he was off the front, more short attacks were launched and we kept on losing people until it was only Josh, me and Brian from Velocity. At that point my tank was pretty empty and I switched into damage control mode. During the last 2 km we were going quite slow since no one wanted to start sprinting too early. I took a look behind me and could see the pack was getting closer. This time though, they wouldn't get us. In the end Brian had the best legs of the three of us, and Josh and I tied for 3rd place (on the results), although he actually won (see picture below).
In case you are interested here is another picture below of how different a criterium looks like when compared to a road race:

In conclusion an amazing weekend of road racing!!


P.S. Thanks to Sanja for feeding me, and to Corey from ERTC for giving Sanja a ride to the feed zones and back since the feed zone were 35 km away from the start!

Saturday 23 June 2012

Chinook Half 2012 - Race Report

This past weekend (June-16) I participated in the Chinook Half Triathlon in Calgary. This is the second time that I did this race (see here for Race Report 2010) and it's really fun and well organized. The highlight for me was definitely the beautiful run through the Fish Creek Provincial Park one of the largest urban parks in North America. On top of all that my parents were also here for the first time since I am in Canada and we had a wonderful time.

Race morning:
We woke up at about 4:45am with a lot of time to slowly get up, have a breakfast and drive to the race venue. The race started at 8am, transition opened at 7am and we were at the parking lot at about 6:40am. Everything went smoothly.

The swim was a 2 by 1km loop in Lake Midnapore with a quick run around a buoy on the beach. The water wasn't as cold as two years ago but still only 16 °C. I was really looking forward to the swim since I spent so much time in the pool during the last 2 years. At the end though my time this year was not faster than it was 2 years ago (32:56 vs. 32:36), although I felt better. I was hoping to be a bit faster of course, but that's what it was. The only thing that was bugging me was that I forgot how constricting it is to swim in a wetsuit, or rather in my wetsuit (Entry level Nineteen - Pipeline). My arm recovery felt way more difficult than without. It was also the first time since almost 2 years that I swam in a wetsuit. Maybe that was the problem... Since I am usually training without a wetsuit, I might not have trained as much those muscles required to swim well in a wetsuit. Swimming in a wetsuit looks quite different then swimming without one. But since my big race is a warm pacific ocean swim, I am not really concerned with this issue.

The bike course is a 96 km quite scenic out and back heading straight into the Rocky Mountains, but for my taste the road is too busy to give it 5 stars. The turn around was close by the town Bragg Creek. As I am now in the lucky situation to ride with a power meter (see my previous post), I was not looking once at the speed I was going. In fact, my selected Garmin window didn't show speed at all. I was only concerned with my watts and cadence. My goal was to just collect some power data to better adjust my training zones for the upcoming 14-week IM Hawaii preparation. Based on my recent 5 min and 30 min all-out efforts, I was guessing to average around 300 watts. That would be racing at 85 % of my functional threshold power (FTP, 354 watts). According to "Training and Racing with a Power meter" by Allen & Coggan 2010, it is suggested to race the Half Ironman distance at about 80-85 % of FTP.  On my way out I averaged 297 watts (normalized: 306; heart rate 142 bpm) and back 278 watts (normalized: 281; hear rate 134 bpm). The lower averages on the way back are mostly due to long descent back into Calgary (see figure below). Given that I was racing correctly at just below 85 % of my current FTP, I was right on with my effort. Compared with the 2010 results, I was about 3 min faster (2:28:49 vs 2:31:17).

As I already mentioned above the run was really beautiful (2 laps through the Fish Creek Provincial Park). It had some up- and downhills and was not boring at all. For the first 2-3 km I had some issues with my quads (nothing unusual for me). But this time they were cramping quite badly and I was considering stopping for a few seconds to stretch them. Luckily though, as fast as they came they also disappeared. I know I am prone to cramping during the first kilometres into the run, but I forgot that they usually disappear as well. So it was good to get reminded of that for the upcoming races and not become totally devastated as soon as I feel them coming. Anyway, at that point in the race I was running in second place with quite a gap to third place. So, I didn't really had a reason to push it any harder so early in the season. I paced both my laps evenly within seconds and had an average heart rate of 146 during both laps. Compared with the 2010 results it almost exactly the same time (1:30:17 vs. 1:30:22; but my average heart rate was 153 bpm back then). But I do have to say that I felt my muscles were getting tired. I guess due to the fact that I am doing so many hard interval workouts my cardiovascular system is superb but my muscles need more distance now. And this is what comes in my next training block starting in 2 weeks.

My transitions were rather slow. I took quite some time to get everything right and to not forget things. This is something that needs improvement for sure. But with two more Half Irons coming up there is also time to practice again under race conditions.

Thanks to Sanja and my parents, as well as Pat (raced the Olympic distance) and Becky, and Ben and Lindsay (raced the Aquabike) for cheering and having a good time.

Next Stop: The Great White North Triathlon next Sunday on July-1.


Wednesday 13 June 2012

Power, power, power!!

I am finally a proud owner of a Power Tap SL+. This was certainly the missing piece for my goal to finish Top 5 (M30-34) at the Ironman World Championships this year in Hawaii. Luckily, I was able to get it for a sweet deal! Thanks to Travis!

I was playing around with it these days and also bought the book "Training and Racing with a Power Meter" by Allen and Coggan. For me as a scientist this is the most amazing thing to collect data on myself, evaluate it and try to find ways to improve these numbers. Now I am truly my own experiment!

Ten days ago I did my first power workout ever and my first VO2max, i.e. all out for 5 min and I averaged 422 watts by 79.5 kg (5.31 watts/kg). Looking in the book I mentioned above, there is a Power Profile Chart (downloads as an excel file), which puts me right in the middle of Category 2 riders. I was very happy with this first result.

Last week I started the VO2max booster program by Jesper Bondo Medhus. Since I really like his time efficient and interval based training approach, I contacted him to ask whether he would be able to plan my last 14-weeks for the big day in Hawaii. He agreed since he finds my goal quite interesting. I can't wait to see how my bike performance will change. I never worked with a power meter before and I never really did real interval workouts on the bike. But this is exactly what I will do now and this will be the recipe for a fast bike in Kona.

When Jesper agreed to write me a 14-week training program he also wanted me to do again a 5 min and now also a 30 min all-out ride. I did these rides today and yesterday (see below) and averaged 438 watts by 79.5 kg (5.51 watts/kg) as well as 368 watts (4.63 watts/kg) for 5 min and 30 min, respectively. My average heart rates were 168 and 160 bpm with an average cadence of 94 and 91 rpm. Using these test results, I calculated my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) of 354 (4.45 watts/kg), which again puts me in Category 2. FTP was calculated using Cycling Power Model and Golden Cheetah and both programs gave me the same FTP. The later is the program that I am using to manage my own power data.

5 min all-out

30 min all-out

This weekend I will also do the Chinook Half in Calgary and I can't wait to see how my power values compare to cycling on the road (I did all my testing on my stationary trainer).

Happy Training!