Haven't said much about the bike racing season many have already started. The fact of the matter is I really haven't been doing the kind of training required to get in race shape. I focused on ski races until the end of March. Then two weeks in Hawaii came along. Now you may say, wait a minute, didn't Hill Junkie do a boat load of climbing on the islands? I did. Keep in mind though, that nearly all of my vacation riding was endurance pace stuff. In fact, much of the climbing was above 5000ft. Air gets thin there. Above 10,000ft, I'm lucky if I can hold 200W for more than a few minutes. What kind of training value can you derive from that? Nothing dubious about it. That was pure recreational riding. Enjoyed every minute of it too.
I commented at the end of ski season that I felt I'm in the best all around shape ever. I could ski 50km and not be trashed. I could probably ride 100 miles in the mountains today and then go for a 3-4 hour trail ride tomorrow. But that doesn't mean I'm in race shape. That takes special preparation, something that has been woefully lacking in my "training" schedule the last couple months.
What do I consider this special preparation? Short, high intensity efforts. These are efforts of 3-10 minutes in duration at VOmax, or an intensity on the cusp of hurling. I usually get a couple of these sessions in per week starting as early as February. I've gotten only a couple of these sessions in so far this year. I think a superb base is there, I just need to wake it up.
I went out to Chestnut Hill a couple days ago for my first benchmark test. Some folks have steady stream of power meter data coming in to tell them quantitatively how they're doing. Nothing wrong with that. I haven't gotten around to putting my Power Tap on a bike yet this spring. Other folks use a local climb. Blue Hill is one fine example used by some of my more urban cycing brethren. For me, Chestnut hill is 30 minutes away from work by bike.
I rode out with triathlete Dan, a normal rapid ramp up of pace deal with one good 60 second interval about 10 minutes from Chestnut to wake up the legs. I felt good actually. The Chestnut climb isn't a pure seconds to average Watts kind of climb like Blue Hill is. Chestnut has a long, slightly climbing section in the middle that is exposed to wind. We had a mild head wind on test day.
I felt good going into the steep 9-10% stuff at the bottom but faded some on the first 400ft of vertical. I had nothing for the near mile of flatter stuff. I had hoped to break 9 minutes. I reached the summit in 9:24, 70 seconds off my best. Ouch. 70 seconds on 8:14 is about 14% hit in power if taking straight ratio. Since this climb involves some speed (>20mph) over a portion of it, the power hit probably isn't quite that bad, but at least 10% I'd say. That means I'm off about 40W for at a 8-9 minute pace. That 40W is everything in a hilly road race. I need it back. The last couple years I've managed much better Chestnut times this time of year.
So what does this mean for my first bike race of the season? With the field stacked as it is, I need to be realistic with my expectations. Battenkill was an "A" race for me the previous three years. In other words, my goal was to podium. Riding conservatively will be the name of the game Saturday. Others in my field may have 10 races under their belt already this season. I haven't even done a group training ride with more than two others. Not sure what to make of the longer course with less climbing. Biggest risk is cramping up before the last climb.
In other news, I apparently forgot how to ride a 26" mountain bike. I took my still almost new Titus Racer X into Mine Falls Wednesday at lunch. Mostly beginner stuff in there except for one rocky outcropping near the dam. I dabbed. It bugged me so I tried again. Dabbed again. After dabbing four times in a row, I gave up in frustration. I can usually clean that section with my singlespeed and almost always with my geared hardtail. So what gives? Did I learn some bad habits with the 29er I rode an a volcano in Hawaii? The season is starting to freak me out. Lack of racing legs, no pack training rides yet, and I can't even ride over a couple rocks on beginner trails. Lots to work on.