End of Phase II—Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? Using HRV in a Training Plan

31 12 2014

I’ve found curious results when considering heart-rate variability (HRV) readings in the training plan. For the most part, the two analysis domains followed the proper trend, that is to say when the LF/HF ratio was high, the dominance level of HF power was low as was the index for the natural log of rMSSD x 20. That being said, I look back over the respective phases and think about where I am versus where I thought I would be. Maybe there’s more “art” to this than “science.”

Back in September, I wrote about a phased training plan that I would use to organize my off-season training. Soon after, I learned a bit more about HRV and it’s value as a factor for day-to-day training decisions. There are two types of analysis that I pay attention to: time-domain and frequency-domain. Fortunately, the Kubios HRV software puts the results side-by-side for easy comparison.

There were roughly 21 medical and sports journal articles that I studied when I decided to check what I call the “big picture.” That is to say, I would watch the Mean R-R, SDNN, and rMSSD variables from the time-domain analysis, the LF/HF ratio (Fast Fourier Transform,) and LF/HF ratio and HF (AR) variables from the frequency-domain analysis. The reason I did this was because most of the journal articles held conclusions for particular domains (and metrics.) Since I was extracting the report variables all at the same time from the Kubios software, there wasn’t any extra work involved to create the tracking graphs. (I feel that I should at least mention that the “non-linear” group of variables were available, but that I didn’t see enough recommendation or acceptance within the art to call for tracking them.)

Day-to-day decision rationale: I mostly consider the following graph (Figure 1) for training vs. recovery decisions. If the index is low (near or below the lower standard limit,) I opt for a day of rest. If the index is between 47 and 52, I’ll workout, but maybe with a lesser duration. If the index is higher than 52, I’ll definitely put in a hard or extended workout. I do look at the other tracking graphs, and if they point the other way, I’d re-consider…again viewing the big picture. Thus, a higher index indicates increased capacity to engage a tough workout and benefit from it.

Line graph of the natural log of rMSSD times 20

Figure 1. rMSSD variable from the Time-domain analysis

Some remarks about the various phases:

  • Resistance Phase/hypertrophy (P1h)—I had the impression that my legs mass-gain would be more…granted I added 16 pounds of body weight and a 5% increase in body fat compared to this time last year. Then, the BF calipers indicated less than 10% so the current level of 15% objectively puts me at the “fat body” self-ranking. On the other hand, my wife says my thighs definitely got big and my butt got rounder (she says she likes it, whatever.) Graph-wise, I thought I should see larger swings as I lifted the big weights and then into rest/recovery.I still think that I goofed my 1 repetition max test by attempting six lifts when I should have attempted a higher set by using only three lifts (instead of wearing myself out faster with six.) The hypertrophy part was characterized high lifting volume with moderately high resistance.
  • Resistance Phase/strength (P1s)—this portion was characterized as reduced lifting volume and increased resistance. There were some definite sore points within this period, although at the end my system seemed to spring back with some better index numbers at the end. I think the percentage lift points would’ve been higher…noted for next time.
  • Resistance Phase/power (P1p)—characteristics include increased lifting speed, reduced resistance, and sprint interval workouts. This was a volatile combination. Most of the period saw lower index points where near December 10, I forced a couple of recovery days less I continued to dig myself into over-training. The need to lift “faster” eventually found me lifting the squat bar enough to “hop” into the air. Again, these workouts were draining, and it reflected in the index plot.
  • Aerobic Endurance Phase (P2)—the graph shows a higher index trend, which I believe reflects the lower measure of time spent on riding near/above the 76% FTP minimum target. There were sprint and muscle endurance intervals intended to complement the endurance riding, most of the time the difficulty was not in completing the intervals. The problem was in accruing time-in-the-zone (TIZ) at the minimum target for the specified duration. Try as I might and even with best effort, the most effective extraction to stay in zone two (above 76% FTP) was only 44% to 51%. In other words, I could ride for three hours, yet only have half the ride time above my target. If I rode for five hours, again roughly half would be credited towards correct TIZ. So, to accomplish four to six hours at zone, I would have to ride for six to eight hours…not a realistic idea. The cause was this: riding outside, I’m subject to traffic, stop light and signs, pedestrians and speed limits on multi-user trails, etc.—constraints to my effort. There’s nothing I can do to omit those factors. On the other hand, I could decide to do that time requirement on the trainer, and I did for most of it. However, about 3 ½ hours was all I could muster on a trainer, any more than that I just could not get my brain around. Note: the 76% figure comes from Morris’ designation of the lower limit for the endurance zone on his scale. I figure he’s got a good reason for making it that way. Overall, I did not gain the volume target for this period, and that’ll likely hurt me later on. Because the phase intensity/impact was less extensive, the graph shows higher index marks. (My reasoning anyway.) I had played with the idea that this phase indicated that some type of “form” had incurred, but then I hadn’t done much riding comparatively for me to truly accept having any “form.” I had also extended this period by two weeks to try to meet requires. Next year, I’ll try to find a longer, uninterrupted stretch of road like a secondary state highway to meet the TIZ requirements.
  • Aerobic Endurance Phase/rest week (P2r)—this is the built-in rest week for the second phase. It has its own training regimen oriented around rest days and a few (but more intense) short interval workouts. This is also the week that I spent out-sick courtesy of the local flu bug, so not really much training to speak of, nor of much quality rest either. Kind of a waste of a week progress-wise. It’s why the graph’s index numbers are swirling around the bottom of the plot, again, dashed lines indicate non-training days.
  • Phase 3 Supermaximum Sustainable Power Intervals (P3)—the first two days of this period were sick/non-training days. Although I did try part of the first workout during the second day. Not bad results, I made the target wattage, but was not able to complete the full workout. I deemed it “OK” after being sick for a week.

In closing, I’ll keep watching the “big picture.” Next year this time, I’ll use the lessons learned after this evolution to make the program better.

Thanks for reading. My next post should show how I was able to integrate the BSXinsight Lactate Meter into the training program…and I’m really looking forward to learning that! See ya.


2015 Off-Season Training Phase Summary—Looking for Better Results

12 09 2014

So I had some success and some not-so-success for race season 2014. Looking ahead, I hope that I can learn from the past and plan correctly for the future.

The season highlight was getting my teammate Steve T. on the top of the podium after the Tour de’ Bloom road race. (Yeah I know, I need to work on my victory V):

Picture of Steve and I on the podium in 1st and 2nd place.

Steve and I in the 1st and 2nd spots

The other part of this was that I placed 2nd in the GC, and that was cool.

In thinking about the off-season’s training, which is just around the corner, I wanted to dump the training stuff that I felt didn’t help and incorporate the lessons-learned. The off-season for `14 started like this:

Bar graph for the 2014 off-season training period

Accrued hours per week in various intensity zones

I want to keep the time identified as the yellow bars and move this portion of training into Phase II. The dark blue/power zone 4 will move to the power period in Phase I and the pink/power zone 5 time will move to the Phase III portion. See that light blue/tempo stuff? That’s going to go away. My original idea was to use the intensity levels in a “current level builds the foundation for the next level” sort of way, but I think I should have invested the time spent in tempo to time spent in and above power zone 4.

Let’s get to the kind-of-exciting, sort-of-motivating training plan. The plan lasts about 20 weeks in itself and should include one or two weeks for Murphy’s Law. We are all busy with work and family and it’s beneficial to have a bit of flexibility on our side. Here’s Morris’ plan (rest time added):

Four-Phase Plan Summary


Number of Weeks


Major Components

1.Resistance Training Hypertrophy Period, Two to Four Stimulate Muscle Growth High lifting volume, moderately high resistance
Strength Period, Two Build muscular strength Reduced lifting volume, increased resistance
Power Period, Two Train muscle to produce great force at fast speeds Increased lifting speed, reduced resistance; sprint workouts
2.Aerobic Endurance Approx. three + one for rest Build aerobic and endurance capacities of cardiopulmonary and muscular systems, maintain power built during resistance training Long, low-intensity rides; sprint, lead-out, and muscle endurance intervals
3.Supermaximal sustainable power intervals Approx. three + one for rest Build cycling specific power output Short, very high intensity intervals
4.Maximum sustainable power intervals Approx. three + one for rest Increase high-intensity work capacity Longer, high intensity intervals

The reason I’m starting mid-October is because I want to do well at the start of our season; typically the Tour de Dung I & II races in the first two weeks of March. (Race date and time TBD.) Furthermore, like 2014, I’d like to focus on the four separate stage races that occur in the first half of our season.

A long time ago I read a research article (reference coming soon) that concluded that weight training had no significant correlation to cycling-specific strength in highly-trained racers. Since that time, I have never seriously integrated resistance training in my off-season program. (Note: for a short time, I did lift some weights during the 2010 season—maybe that partly explains how many of my all-time power peaks were achieved then.)

However, during the latter portion of the 2013 and the full season of 2014, while competing in the Category 3 level, I painfully realized that I was missing something in training. It was the quality of muscle fiber needed to produce and sustain the higher levels of power beyond what I experienced as a Cat 4. Hence, I was intrigued once I read that Morris had developed a method of enhancing type IIa and IIb muscle fibers with endurance qualities.

Phase I

According to Morris, “Because strength gains are speed specific, a resistance training program should include periods of high-speed lifting to allow strength gains to transfer into increased power output on the bicycle.” This tenet allows the segue from the Olympic bar to the bike; while giving a nod to the principle of specificity. Particularly,

…the methods used by researchers to elicit muscle growth appear somewhat non-traditional by the usual strength and conditioning community. However, these methods produce significant increases in muscle size in a very short time, and appear to be superior to the traditional method of lift-rest, lift-rest

and so on. This plan is more like lift-lift-lift-rest.

The second idea of this phase is to increase the intensity of the nerve impulses that reach the muscle groups. Basically, improving the nervous system’s ability to create more-intense impulses allow the muscles to produce a more-forceful contraction. So, improving muscle fiber mass is just as important as improving the firing impulse. Fortunately, both subjects respond to training input.

I’ll begin this phase with what I call “preparation.” The Olympic bar weighs 44 pounds, and I’ll start without weights because form will be important. This means quality over quantity. Additionally, poor form can lead to injury and I’m not about to do that. Here’s the preparation schedule:

1st Week—Two sets of eight repetitions, 7 lbs. x 2 + bar. Three times this week

2nd Week—Three sets of eight repetitions, 19 lbs. x 2 + bar. Three times this week

3rd Week—Four sets of eight repetitions, 19 lbs. x 2 + bar. Three times this week.

4th Week—(as needed for plan flexibility or readjustment.)

I visited a local gym just blocks away from my house (this would have been convenient.) However, they wanted ~$50 month and maybe an initiation fee. That’s when I decided to build my own squat rack. With a total acquisition cost of ~$101, my break-even point is after the second month of use:

Picture of DIY Squat rack made of dimensional lumber and concrete-cast bar weights.

DIY Squat rack. Features taken from various designs online.

Early picture: this design’s easily constructed, made of available material, and easy to disassemble. (Note: I purchased the Olympic bar from a private seller on Craigslist.) The concrete weights in the foreground are about 45 lbs. each. The weights behind are about 59 lbs. each.  I’ve since molded 19 lb. pairs. I’ve also lowered the safety bars to allow my hip crease to be lower than the top of my knees—based on my understanding of proper form. I’ll be able to perform the high/low back squat and dead lift. As a compromise for having my own stuff versus the gym membership, I will not be able to perform the inclined leg press, which is a different machine.

That’s it for now. It was cool to have a couple of high-points during the season, but I think I could have performed better. Having a vetted plan with specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals should speed me along to doing well at the various stage races this season.

Next post, during the hypertrophy period, I’ll discuss how the plan’s proceeding and what I’ve learned.

The Longbranch Road Race – From Hero to Zero

29 06 2013

So OK, the ’13 season started fairly well. I brought 12 upgrade points with me from race placings last season. Moving to the Seattle area brought new courses and teammates, and a different topology on the race venues. So far I’ve raced the Mason Lake series, Independence Valley road race (IVRR), Ravensdale RR, and the Longbranch course venues. At Mason Lake 1, I placed 14th, which I thought was OK for a season opener. At IVRR I placed 4th, and at Ravensdale, I won. Not a bad start at all.

Picture at the front of the Peloton, Mason Lake 1

At full left-side of frame, finishing my turn at the front.

The following weekend at Mason Lake 2 the weather didn’t cooperate with rain coming down soon after we started. The first crash occurred within 10 minutes after the official signaled “Race start.” The second crash about half-way through the first lap. I saw my teammate David go down in a flash when two members of an opposing team made a sketchy pass on the right where there was no shoulder. They hit each other and David had nowhere to go.  I decided right there that I wasn’t going to jeopardize the rest of my season, and bailed-out to the rear and rode in for a pack finish. The jury’s still out on me racing in the rain. I hope that the Cat 3 guys will have better judgement and bike-handling skills. David’s now had a couple slow rides, coming back to the bike in proper time. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll see him the rest of the season.

Picture of sprint finish at Independence Valley Road Race

The loudest laugh you’ll ever hear in a sprint. Me on the left almost catching 3rd place

The Independence Valley RR proceeded quite well with my form starting to emerge. My tactical play served me well coming into the finish sprint as I had plenty of capacity. It felt so good I let out a laugh that the pack heard. If you check the photo, you can see other guys grinning (or grimacing) too. I gunned it from ~180 meters to place fourth. I realized afterward that could’ve launched earlier and probably caught the lead guy as I had a great head of steam on and was passing racers left and right.

The Ravensdale RR was pretty interesting too. There was a climb I was concerned about along with a minor climb. At race pace these inclines had the potential to have me shelled off-the-back. As it turned out, I was able to stay with the front of the pack even after jumping with a few not-so-viable breakaway attempts. I think one of these attacks could have stayed off-the-front if a few more of the guys would have cooperated and worked a bit, but that was asking too much. Nonetheless, I wrote a separate post about this finish. I won this race and gladly accepted my competitor’s compliment as being a “tricky guy.”

Picture of the finish sprint at the Ravensdale road race

The sneak attack. An opportune moment opens just before the 200 meter mark…and I’m alone at the finish.

With this win bringing 10 points, I had enough to justify my request to upgrade. On June 11, the regional USAC representative informed me that my request had been approved. I was a new Cat 3, and have finally achieved my top goal albeit carried over from last season.

So I’m thinking that the wet, sloppy base miles accrued during the off-season, the targeted mid-range intervals, and general season campaign plan is working pretty good. My expectation was to gain an understanding of what the new racing scheme is all about. I think that every race course and every categorical mass-start has it’s own personality. I had experienced the Cat 5 and Cat 4 personas to include the master classes. (Yeah, I’m an old-er fart and I’ll get to try the 50+ group after next August.)

I sent an email to my team captain about the upgrade and he responded appropriately and transferred me to the Cat 3 team captain. These will be the guys I start training with during the transition period and they’ll be my starting squad-mates next racing season. With 24 of them, I’m sure there will be plentiful advice and guidance to come.

A week or so has gone by since my upgrade and I’m on the fence about racing and training. Call it a slump, call it motivational burnout, call it whatever. The Capitol Stage Race comes and goes…I’m not feeling the love. (I’ve missed-out on the Walla Walla Stage race two years in a row now and have yet to do a stage race.) It was with a half-spirited sigh when I clicked the pre-registration button for the Longbranch RR.

I registered for the master’s 40+ 1-2-3, and my race would be in the afternoon, 1:05. I watched who had signed-up early and was concerned when the deadline showed only five racers. If no others showed for registration before race time; we’d all be working quite hard for the whole distance. Another possibility was that the race organizers would combine our pack into another with separate scoring. This latter possibility would skew the pack characteristic that I was trying to learn, but I’d have to wait and see.

Six of us carpooled to Longbranch, WA. After jostling the cars around so we could gear-up/warm-up and discuss race stuff, we settled in underneath a pop-up awning that a thoughtful teammate brought. This course had an uphill slope from the start leading to a small climb, which lead to a larger climb. Both course features would yield a selection, whittling down the pack to only those who could survive. As it turns out, these climbs would prove significant during the race.

Longbranch RR profileSo we chatted about who was doing what pack, that is to say, masters or regular category. Three or 40 plus? I was vacillating. If I stayed with the master’s (similar ceilings for HR), I would have to race with a pack of only 10 and no teammates. If I moved over to Cat 3, I would race with three teammates in a pack of 40 (better quantities for points.) On the other hand, the 1-2-3 group contained former uber-fast guys who, as local consensus said, were likely to establish a breakaway. I choose to move over and race with my Cat 3 teammates. This meant that I would race 66 miles, or about six laps of the above profile.

Andrew walked about; dealing with his pre-race jitters. David warmed-up on the course. Greg and I warmed-up on our trainers while chatting about training regimens, warm-up routines, and other race banter. I learned that my routine was still oriented to a morning race: that is, awake early for breakfast, pack the van with pre-staged gear, drive to the race, set-up—warm-up— race. I had not considered taking extra food for the hours after breakfast and before the race. Greg was cool enough to give me a few food bars to chow on and I wasn’t going to be picky about it. Additionally, my Joule GPS wasn’t picking up my G3 signal.  I knew that you could command the Joule to find the sensors but I couldn’t find it on the menu. (It’s on page 10 of the users manual—press the + and – buttons at the same time.) Great, all I had was the Borg RPE scale to gauge my warm-up effort. So far this (and the lack of food prep.) feels like strike one for this race effort.

Staging time. I detach from the trainer, swap skewers, put on the helmet and glasses, and make my way over to the group. David and Greg are already in place; I roll in behind them. The race official bellows out his stuff. He reminds me on one of my DIs while in boot camp many years ago,

“…race start is from here after I blow the whistle. There is no neutral roll-out today.”

Now I wished I had pedaled a bit higher in intensity during warm-up (legacy thinking, see book reference above). I noticed Greg digging into zone 4 but hadn’t really thought about it. Strike two. There’s the whistle. Staccato clicks of pedals and cleats, and pings of derailleurs shifting under tension. We’re rolling north on Key Peninsula Way for what I’ll call the first area of interest in retrospect.

Jeez, we’re moving fast. I’m already aerobic; trying to hold the wheel in front of me, my introduction to racing with the Cat 3s. The little voice in the back of my head wasn’t saying anything, but if it did:

“Hey—you asked for this.”

My Joule display shows me where I am on the course and the feedback from my legs is pegging the warning light…they’re full of lactate. Crap! I’m in trouble. We’re over the rise now heading north-west, hitting a downhill portion for 45 seconds of recovery. Draft dude, stay in the draft. Almost 32 mph now, we cross the bridge. My little backseat voice chimes,

“Christine said to ensure you’re in the small ring when you cross the bridge.”

“Got it”

Down goes the chain. My legs aren’t clearing out. I’m getting nothing from the recovery. The guy in front of me gets squirrelly as  something in front of him makes him un-clip his right foot popping it like an outrigger.  I swerve to protect my front wheel. Shit. My legs are burning; I look up to the front of the pack.

“Oh God.”

The road is straight as an arrow, and it’s going up. Up all the way to the horizon, up to the sky. A little tunnel of light flanked by the trees on either side. The pack surges at the base of the climb as we clear the bridge. My meter would say something like over 730 W. We’re climbing around 15 mph and slowing to 8.5 mph as gravity exerts it’s hold. The pack surges again and post analysis says I’m still over 660 W. Our speed increases to 14 mph (huh, going uphill?) My legs are dying, I’m sliding back to the rear. Another surge over 560 W. I can’t clear my legs out. The coup de grace is upon me. Still another surge over 500 W, speed now over 17 mph. I’ve cracked. The pack glides away from me. Other casualties fall away, spat off the back. Ahead of me, David and and Greg manage to hang on. Andrew is somewhere near the front, his 150 lb. body weight an advantage.

Picture on the second climb on the Longbranch road race course

Cracked and dropped on the third climb. I spend the rest of the race trying to clear my legs; barely able to turn the pedals for decent speed.

“I might as well get some time in. What else to do on this fine afternoon?” I might as well, I gotta’ wait for Andrew to finish since we carpooled here; he seems to be holding it together. David and Greg eventually drop too although I wouldn’t know that until I started a subsequent lap; seeing them riding together back to the parking area.

“You guys finish?” I huffed.

“No, we’re done, just heading back.” they reply.

This chip-seal is going to get old. I’m not sure I want to do more laps ’cause it’s starting to feel like the Ann Weatherill century+ ride that I did in Walla Walla last Saturday. Not only were my legs blown, my motivation was sapped too. I didn’t have my usual MP3 training accompaniment with me either. After the fifth lap I had had enough of riding by myself. My back was a giant knot and the fun meter was on vacation somewhere else.

Post Analysis

What happened? Yeah, I wondered that question for the rest of the afternoon. Since my Joule wasn’t synchronized and didn’t record a single bit of wattage data, I would be hard pressed to create conclusions based on vetted data. Then, I remembered that my teammate Andrew had a Garmin—and we had raced in the same pack. I asked and he agreed with my reasoning to benchmark the numbers behind the situation. I converted his .wko file into a .tcx file for easy data summary and snooping with the Strava web application. There was a problem however: Andrew weighed 150 lb. and I weighed 167 lb. that day. Given the same speed within the pack, I would have to exert more wattage because of my higher system weight.

One ballpark solution involves the excellent equation for steady-speed cycling power given in Bicycling Science’s address in chapter four:

Graphic for the steady-speed cycling power equation

Equation 1


  • WW = power at the wheel (watts)
  • V = velocity (mph, converted to SI units within the equation: meters/second)
  • KA = aerodynamic drag factor (SI units within the equation: CD·Aρ ⁄ 2)
  • VW = wind velocity
  • m = system mass, bike + racer (kg)
  • g = 9.81 (SI unit within the equation: meters/second)
  • s = slope of the road surface
  • CR = .0027 coefficient of rolling resistance


Using information from the data file and the Strava.com web application, segregate the three areas of interest and find the average speed for those areas. Setting the speed as a constant, use the equation to extrapolate the power needed to traverse those areas. Assume a wind speed of “0” mph and coefficient of rolling resistance of .0027 for simplicity. I used my body and race bike weight for the system mass constant. Compare the estimates of required power and duration to those of recorded training efforts. Determine inadequacies. Comment on training stress balance (TSB) or insufficient recovery from the Walla Walla weekend as possible contributing factors.


The following profile shows the areas that I wanted to investigate:

Graphic of Longbranch RR Course Profile: Areas of Interest

Longbranch RR Course: Areas of Interest

Input values for Equation 1 were identified from “windowing” the respective areas of interest within the Strava application:

  • V = area average mph
  • s = area average slope
  • t = transit time

Constants for equation 1:

  • Ka = 0.25, aerodynamic drag factor
  • Vw = 0, wind speed
  • m = 83.5, racer + bike mass
  • g = 9.81, gravity
  • Cr = 0.0027, coefficient of rolling friction

Calculation results:

Area            Description/Location           WW W/kg   V     s   Time (min.)
First start to top of first climb 365 4.8 21.6 0.015 5.6
Second bottom of first descent to top of second climb 363 5.7 18.7 0.029 1.55
Third bottom of second descent to top of third climb 437 4.8 13.7 0.073 2.42


  1. In situ equation calculation was performed using SI units
  2. Power-to-weight ratio added after the fact, outside of Equation 1 function
  3. “All Time Bests” values date from June 2011 to May 2012
Graphic chart of training vs. Longbranch racing data

Graph 1


Lets discuss the comparison of data. Basically, what I have is a benchmark survey of my first race as a Cat 3 to compare to my training target(s). As we can seen in Graph 1, the power-to-weight (P/W) ratios from the 6/22/13 Longbranch race for the most part are greater in intensity than any other sampling except the 1.5 minute point. Additionally, the race sampling is only taken from the first several hill climb portions of the course. Any sprint P/W samples from the race may be comparable, but as of yet are unknown. In this study, squad rides and hill repeat durations generally do not approach the intensities found at Longbranch.

The current training impulse will not stimulate adaptation needed to produce the desired levels of intensity such as those experienced at Longbranch. Thus, I have some decisions to make about where I spend my training time. If Carmichael’s energy string theory is true, I can focus on the higher levels of training intensity while retaining the benefits of training in the lower zones, and drawing close to the exertion targets needed for racing these types of climbs. I think this method is viable as now is the time to build intensity on top of the extensive base foundation formed during the off-season.

Note: I had intended to produce a regression equation from the Longbranch data in order to estimate target P/W levels and discuss them here, but this post runs long as it is.

I questioned whether I was recovered from the Walla Walla 113-mile ride. Prior to the race, my TSB level was 24. For me, this should have been sufficient as an indication of full recovery with the likelihood of a top-level effort.

So there it is, I’m confident that the reason that I cracked is because I got in over-my-head on racing intensities far above my current training level. It’s time to up my game if I want to be competitive for the remainder of this season and for the seasons to follow; not to mention the next milestone of Cat 2.

Keep it safe out there and take care of yourself.

Rise Above: It’s about Integrity. It’s about Guts

31 12 2010

I finished Paul Kimmage’s book, “Rough Ride. Behind the Wheel with a Pro Cyclist.” And I must comment: this man endured more hardship and bullshit than most everybody I know. He’s telling it like it is, and that’s why I admire his character.

This guy’s got intestinal fortitude. A long time ago this was called “having the spleen.” I find the phrase humorous, but I couldn’t be more serious about the topic. Questions about a man’s character are directly related to how he presents himself. To most around him, he became a pariah, because he choose to stand-up and tell the truth. Much of the time, this is not proper behavior if you desire to be part of a group. Choose to rock the boat and you get cast-off.

This brings me to group behavior. Everyone wants to be different, but yet everyone wants to fit into the group. To find acceptance is a powerful motivator. One that can cause rationalization and the actions that goes with it. I’m not talking about Mr. Kimmage’s behavior, I’m talking about the behavior of various directeur sportifs and team doctors, the Union Cycliste Internationale, and of the Italian Olympic Committee, etc. Did their behavior benefit or damage the athletes under their care at that time? Did they take care of them? What about current organizations? My perception based on Kimmage’s book is a thundering “not even close.” Turns my stomach.

Do you say that every man is responsible for his own actions? I say true! And in this day and age I also say that there’s a lot of blame that gets re-directed to someone or something else. I don’t agree with this rationalization at all. I think that today most individuals would duck-and-cover rather than take responsibility for themselves. Disgusting. You don’t hear examples of impeccable personal honor as the subject of the news at all. I think our society has forgotten all about that. What a pissing shame.

I couldn’t finish his exquisitely agonizing story without commenting afterward. My hat’s off to Mr. Kimmage. Was he perfect? Hell no. Who on this flippin’ rock is perfect? Not me.

This is one man I’d like to meet…in the least just to shake his hand and say, “Thanks. I respect what you did.” For what it’s worth.

Holiday Inspiration: When the Bell Tolls

25 12 2010

I’m quite fat and happy, well, not fat at all according to the government and the mirror; but the expression fits. Christmas morning proceeded quite nicely; kids excitedly brandished new presents as if to threaten joy and excessive energy (which they did). Barb and I nursed our special holiday coffee – a Roast House Coffee Noir bean touched with O’Reillys’ White Chocolate or Torani’s Chai Tea Spice. It was our little treat for ourselves.

Two of my presents were books, Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride and Tim Krabbe’s The Rider. I skimmed Kimmage’s excerpt, and noted:

…it wasn’t about how much training you put in or how much you wanted to win. It was about grueling defeats, complete and utter exhaustion – and it was about drugs. Not drugs that would ensure victory, but drugs that would allow you to finish the race and start another day.

I pulled the stick out of my emotional wheel. Crap, another doping article. Is true competition possible without drugs anymore? It made me question my goals and inspired this post. How far do I really want to go? My purpose for racing and training isn’t really about glory, fame, and winning; although those things are nice. It’s more about purpose – and that’s seeing how far I can push my engine and learning how much I can withstand; at what point would I quit myself? I hate quitting. I hate giving up. On the race course the adamant question bangs away inside my head, “Come on man, is this really all you’ve got?”

I want to be able to look back when I’m done a long time from now and know “Yeah, that was hard. I gave it everything that I had to give.” It would be an honorable effort, the bell of my conscience.

I hope when I finish both books I’ll find more inspiration from them. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll even learn something and write about it here.

See you at the races.

The Corsa Brutale Road Race – Something Old, Something New

11 05 2010

The Corsa Brutale Course

All fueled up and going nowhere. At least that’s what the wind made it feel like. I had about 50 minutes before B-pack rolled on their neutral start. I had to warm up.

Today was Tuesday and my wife Barb had decided to volunteer as the wheel-car driver for this race. While she prepared for race duties, I prepared for racing. I was familiar with this course from the year before, and from having ridden on it from time to time. It has some good course elements.

Course Elevation

There’s rolling hills, some flats, a nice downhill section (doesn’t let you go fast enough IMHO), and a decent climb about five miles from the start/finish line. Tactically, at about 5.5 miles in, a breakaway will usually take place just after reaching the false crest. Last year, this false crest is where I imagined I saw some racers attack, which triggered my attack in order to bridge to them.

It felt cold, it was cold. The temperature was around 38F and that didn’t include wind chill. I had to get moving. Pre-race fueling and gear preparation was finished; I turned onto the course, right into the uncompromising wind. “This is what the start and lead-in to the finish will feel like,” I thought. Right away I knew that drafting would be especially essential during this race. Even with head down and hands in the drops, it seems I can’t move with any decent speed. My H/R edges into the 150s, crap.

I decide that leg warmers are going on, but option against full-fingered gloves. I want the feel of the brake/shifter levers unaffected. I turn around near the 3.5 mile point and head back to the staging area. The tailwind is nice and I’m flying. It will feel good to get warm again. I drink from my water bottle a bit more. I remember how much I drank during the race before and have no desire to carry any extra weight up that hill.

I lean into the last turn before the staging area, my Continentals feel bit coarse today. I wonder if I’m carrying too much pressure.

10 minutes to go and I’m waiting near the start line. Eric R. and I chat about the course, its layout and where attacks may take place. Monte M. rolls up. I think this is great because last season I was by myself as the lone member from Spokane Rocket Velo in the C-pack. I actually get to race with some team members this time around. Nearby, the race officials provide their required briefing to the A-pack racers and emphasize to us that straying over the center-line in order to take advantage will be dealt with quickly and with undesirable consequences. No problem…I don’t want to be DQ’d. A-pack seems big this season.

We finish our briefing and get another look at the electronic loudspeaker that we’ll be blasted with should we err in our ways. Eric R. is rubbing-down his quads trying to keep them warm. I’ve already cooled-down and I’m thinking that the warmup was frivolous under these conditions. The lead car pulls up and I hear pedal cleats sounding throughout the pack. We’re rolling.

The double-honk start signal bleats and the race is on. Right away a single-pace line forms, snaking out of the peloton, trying to wedge into the wind. Eric R. positions right near the front and Monte and I quickly do the same. Getting caught in the wind by yourself spells for a quick burnout. We churn the pedals on. The lead rider soft-pedals into the wind and the next in line takes his place, a rotation has started. Eric R. finishes his pull, about 45 seconds I think. A second column starts to form and then dissipates as riders abandon that effort.

I take my pull on the front and fade into the wind about 2 miles into the race. I start to soft pedal and drift back looking for a spot to jump back into the line. I drift more to rear…I sense that this was a big mistake and find a gap that opens. I’m too far back from the front. Back here the accordion effect will drain your energy faster than the  effort at the “sweet spot” towards the front. Additionally, positioning in this location allows you to observe who is doing what. Tactically, this is a good place to be.

I’m not in the draft.

We roll into the base of the climb, chains start to click up cassettes and shoulders are starting to rock. We haven’t slowed much. At the 5.5 mile mark stronger riders have made their way to the front and a breakaway forms. I’m fading. I know I need to crush it extra hard to stay with them but I just don’t have the steam. I’m dropping. Some racers pass by and I hop onto their wheel in an effort to stay in the game. I make it with them pass the crest and onto the naked plateau. I feel like I’m breathing through a couple of McDonald’s straws.

I count four racers in our group. I think I hear Scott M. of NW Velo Sport say, “We need four.”

Maybe we have enough. My teammate Monte M. survived the climb too. The cross-wind is from our left side. I yell out, “We can make it if we work together! Form a pace line!”

Pic of a single cycling pace lineWe four racers form a new team. It’s work together or face solitary efforts to the finish line. The wind is cold and un-relenting. We start to pull and fade off in turn. Having only four doesn’t allow much recovery in the small draft we have created, but we make it work.

We’re trying…trying hard. A racer succumbs to the effort and a gap opens. We’re such a small group that any lapse in focus, any pause or hesitation will dissolve our cohesion. I hear Scott M. yell, “Hold the line!”

We’ve lost Monte, he’s burned his last match. It’s just Scott M. another racer, and myself. We return to the pace line. A turn east on Wood road follows. We’ve gained 15 seconds on the lead riders.

At mile 9 we approach two small hills and even with the tailwind we’re still trying to hammer a bridge towards the break. They’re nowhere in sight. I anticipate the rise and click down a gear to increase my cadence. We crest and are soon flying past Davis Lake, hands in the drops, and approaching the southern turn on Four Mounds road. Tactically and historically, there’s an attack at this corner. We’re just trying to survive.

Mile 13. Too many rotations. We’re down one from our initial count and it’s effect is telling and I’m starting to fade again. “Shit,” briefly hisses from my rasping breath.

Scott hears me and tells me to throttle back. I don’t have to be told twice and soft-pedal, drifting to the rear. I’ve got to get my wind back. I spend a couple of rotations “sitting-in,” trying to get my heart rate down to a manageable level. It works. In a couple of minutes I’m able to press hard again.

I’m feeling a heck of a lot better. To my relief I sight a rider to our front who has dropped off the back of the break. “That’s our number four rider if we can recruit him,” I thought. He’s not that far in front and I know I can bridge that gap. I get back into the drops, pass my group on the left saying, “lets go.” I pull the other riders with me closing the gap.

To my surprise the rider ahead is an old teammate of mine, Brian H. As we pass I say to him, “Brian fall in!” He immediately clues in and drops into our pace line. We’re back to four. We’re going to make it.

We make the crest to a short downhill section at about mile 17.5. I like downhills because I can always regain and recover. Plus, I don’t mind the free speed. I suppose my aero drag is pretty low when I’m tucked-in tight because I’m always over-taking other riders comparatively. I have to feather the brakes just to stay with the guys. I hear Brian H. grumble, “…everybody passes me on the downhill.”

“It’s about aerodynamics (and potential energy),” I respond. I moderate my descent by popping in and out of the draft. To try to breakaway now wouldn’t make a lot of sense. We are all out of the point standing and just trying to make it back. We’re about 1.5 miles from the staging area and the turn towards the finish line, four miles away. At some point we lose the other rider leaving Scott M., Brian H. and myself. We’re back to three now.

Ragged. We’re not holding much of a good form in the pace line. We’re all tired and struggle forward. The miles drift away. There’s the 1k marker I think.

Around the last two right-hand curves and the finish line staff is in sight. What a relief. I sit up. I told Scott M. earlier that I wouldn’t contest the line with him. He’s a wheel ahead when we pass the line. The finish official clicks the camera shutter as we pass…that would be a nice copy to have.

Scott and I turn around separately. He mentions that he needs to track down his brother who was also racing. I acknowledge and respond that I’m going to wait-up for my teammate Monte who is now approaching the finish. While we didn’t place for any points this time around, I thought that we worked well in our impromptu team.

Monte and I chit-chat on our way back to the staging area. C-pack rolls by on their way to the finish. There’s the car for the following official and Barb driving the wheel car afterward. We wave to each other. Monte and I see Scott and another rider forward of us and increase the pace to catch-up. What follows is a spirited surge and chase or so it seems. Our race has finished and we’re riding for fun now. I feel refreshed. Near the staging area I stomp on it and watch the road fly beneath me as I lean into the last turn.

It feels good to be warm again.

The Chapman Short Course – Just when you thought it was safe to race.

6 05 2010

The Chapman Short Course

My goal was to finish with the pack since I was previously sent sideways by that virus. A secondary goal was to understand what was happening with the other teams. The third and last goal was to understand how the course would be exploited for the win. In retrospect, some of these goals were met, but other lessons were learned too.

I suppose it was a typical day for this working-class racer wanna-be. My timely departure from work, hampered by the last-minute appearance by a genuine purchasing customer, was succeeded by a truly illegal speedy transit to Cheney in order to arrive before the close of registration. Now that wasn’t very smart-registration went fine.

Speed limit signs on the highway

"This is the limit right?"

I found a convenient place to park and started race preparation. With my number pinned-on I set out to start a warm-up only to break-out my stationary trainer after one lap up the road…riding in circles didn’t appeal to me. I watched the other racers pass by on as I spooled-up into the proper training zone. I saw a few acquaintances here and there. Kevin B. from Emde passed by with a big grin on his face-looks like he was doing pretty good.

The pack sequence was starting to gather so I moved the gear back into my pickup and locked it down. I rolled over to the staging area and chatted with Ron B. , my only teammate for this race. I noted that Emde and Vertical Earth were out in force. Later on IMHO, they would vie for control of the race. The race officials give us their standard briefing and soon after A-pack rolled-out for the neutral start.

Five minutes later myself, Ron and the rest of B-pack click into our pedals for our start. It seems that the lane width isn’t enough for our column-of-two. I chatted with Cris L. of the Arrivee team. His teammate, Mark H. is who I road with back to the start area during the Frozen Flatlands race. Our lead car approaches the course turn at F Street/Mill…and keeps going. I hear questions and comments echo up and down the pack.

USAC rule #3B4– “The responsibility of keeping on the prescribed course rests with the rider.” We should have turned right without the pace car. Additionally, any racer who had would have had a rightful advantage were they able to exploit it. The pace car makes another turn past what I think was a donut shop. I hear sighs and laugh to myself. Chains and gearing pop as we crest a small hill on our return back to the course.

There’s at least two sets of railroad tracks to cross before our lead car will signal the race start. Ron and I passed those without pinching a tube or losing a water bottle. Seconds later, we hear the two-honk signal from the pace car…the race is on boys.

Cris is the first to attack, the pack lead surges and he is absorbed. His pace sets the tone for the course. The quartering headwind buffets us from the southwest. I try to maintain my position in the front third always keeping one or two racers in echelon ahead of me. I’ll have a tough time without being able to draft and save energy. Our pace quickens again.

The lead trades off from time to time. Every now and then a racer jumps and makes a bid to escape but for the most part the pack remains whole. There’s also a few close calls as someone gets near someone else and a crash is avoided. (After the race someone counts up to eight near-misses.) Another characteristic of this race is created. My own pucker-factor pegs as I hear brakes sounding their resistance just in front of me. I learned long ago to stagger my front wheel from the racer in front of me. Nonetheless, that racer’s wheel can decelerate pretty damn fast…always be on the left or right and give yourself a route out and away. Not-so-famous last words as it turns out.

We arrive near West Tritt Lake, or mile 23 I think. Up ahead is our lead car apparently slowing near the end of C-pack. I hear exasperation as we bunch up. I eventually regain my breath.  Looks like we will get to pass them. Our pace picks up, I thought I heard someone saying, “C-pack go neutral” or something like that. The passage takes some distance to accomplish, I’m in the front-third thinking that I’m out-of-gas to contest the final sprint. We finally complete the pass maybe near the 200m marker.

We’re inside 200m. I remember the left and right flanks of the lane filling-up with racers. It’s really packed-in and our energy’s building, coiling for the sprint just seconds away, about 150m now. I’m in my top gear. Then it happens, but not the sprint that I’m expecting. Two bikes draw together in a violent motion-almost a blur. I hear that odd noise, that of metal, tubing and fiber. Time clicks into slow motion. Right in front of me a bike and rider is sideways then down. There’s nowhere for me to go, no escape path. I yell something like, “Oh *&^*!” I know I’m going to hit then…nothing.

I find myself on the side of the road kneeling down. I realize I have crashed-I wonder if my bike is trashed. I feel pain, a quick check says that nothing is broke. I don’t know where my bike is. There’s riders and bikes all over the road. I stand up and note the road rash over my shoulders and right side, a huge contusion is building over my right hip. I see my bike about twenty feet away. I ask a rider near me if he’s alright.

Alan J. finds me and asks if I’m OK. I reply same and start to move toward my bike. He stops me and sits me down. I feel like I need to walk this out-maybe residual adrenaline. I try to stand up, he sits me down again. Ugh, my joints are starting to get sore. An EMT puts some compresses on the parts that are bleeding. More small talk. I can’t remember what happened in between, those few seconds.

I see a racer in an arm sling, another is getting prepped for a back-board and transit. Alan lets me get up, just a bit wobbly now. I walk over and pickup my bike and note that the front wheel is knocked out of true, my new saddle is broken and twisted. I wonder what else is wrong with it.

I end up in the back of someone’s truck (thanks to whoever you were) riding back to Salnave park. I hold my frame away from another rider’s bike trying to examine for other damage. We arrive. I unload myself and walk back to my truck, pack the gear in, bid “later on” to some of my friends. Alan tells me that some other riders are covered and don’t need a ride. I call Barb, explain that there’s been a crash and to have the first aid kit open and ready for me when I get home. I have to clean all this road out of my skin. I regret not shaving. Medical tape and body hair doesn’t mix well.

Nine days later. I still can’t remember what happened. Even after talking with other racers and officials. I only have their perspective(s). Erika K. made a video from the finish line. I would like to see more detail, in order to fill that gap in my memory.

See ya’ next post.

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