School of Cross + Hop N Hurl Race Cyclocross Race Report

I won’t go into crazy detail here about either of the two races I completed last weekend, however they were both a blast. As my first real Cyclocross style race other than Kettle Cross, I think things went quite well. I learned a ton about racing tactics, pacing, and bike handling in the weekend. I competed in School Of Cross on Saturday and Hop N Hurl on Sunday

Since I am still a Cat 5 Road Racer, I was placed into the most beginner category of Cyclocross racing, “Sport”. Despite shifting my focus back to running and having  not ridden either my road or cross bike at all in the past month, I still did quite well and felt stronger than many of my competitors in both races. My downfall was definitely being timid in the beginning of both races due to my lack of experience with steep descents, single track, and technical cornering. I plan on getting at least two more cross races in this season and plan on spending a lot more time on the cross bike before the start of next season to help get used to technical riding.

In hindsight, establishing a good starting position out of the opening sprint is super key, even more so than in Crit racing. If you aren’t in the top 10, you end up bottlenecked behingd 20 to 30 racers who are both slower and less proficient in the corners. I estimate that the leaders gain 2-3 seconds on you through every corner in the opening lap. I made the mistake in both races starting deep behind the leaders. I estimate about 30 back in both races. After things finally spread out, I managed to climb about 15 or so spots in both races. I definitely made a ton of ground up over the barriers and sand pits as most of the other riders don’t have the top end running speed that I am capable of. But in the end, you can only pass/catch so many people in 40 minutes when you’ve given the top 20 riders a minute head start in the first lap.

Next year I definitely intend on racing a full cross season with intentions of upgrading to “Expert” which is always easier said than done. I think I will have some added fitness as well as bike handling abilities. Right now I am back to building base for next year so I can start hard in March and hopefully cycle consistently all the way to November with a few small breaks in the middle.

I am quite happy with both races, I maintained a pretty high threshold for both races and felt like my legs were completely shot at the conclusion of both races meaning I was working hard enough. I would have finished in approximately 11th place in Hop N Hurl had I not kicked my chain off the little ring when I was hurling over the barricades. Oh well!

School of Cross CX:  17/44 Sport, +0:02:54

Hop N Hurl CX: 15 / 44 in Sport

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Winter 2012 Training Plans and Goals for 2013

With Tour de Bowness and the Kelowna Apple Triathlon behind me, my Road Racing and Triathlon seasons have come to an end. I made it through the season in relatively one piece. I had to deal with a bit of an arch injury after Fast Trax 30km, left some skin on the Crit course at TdB, and have picked up a slight cough that I haven’t been able to shake since Edmonton ITU but other than that feel pretty good right now.

With the temperature starting to drop, only Cyclocross season remains. I have really mixed feelings about CX right now. It seems like it is going to be absolute blast, but I’ve crashed fairly hard on every CX ride I’ve been on to this point, so if I can end that trend I’ll be much more thrilled about the sport. So far I have 3 races in mind, the Kettle Cross Enduro, School of Cross, and Hop N’ Hurl. I plan on really only tapering for the first race as it will be quite a long solo effort. After the last cross race of the season, and when the snow hits the ground for good, I plan on taking a hard rest week to give the body a bit of a chance to recover.

Below I’ve attempted to outline my basic goals for next year’s race season.

Running

As of the first week in September I will be back to training with the Triathlon club full time as I am required to coach Tuesday and Friday evenings and will being participating in our club’s swims on Mondays and Thursdays. One of the big goals I have for next year is to complete the Grizzly Ultra Marathon in October 2013. The race consists of  a 50km trail run with 1 691m of elevation gain(OUCH!). I’ve talked with Jack from Fast Trax, who is the head coach of a pretty hardcore Ultra running club in Edmonton, and he’s built me a modified training plan based on what his racers normally do. I made it clear that I only have time to run at maximum four times per week, and not the 7-9 that his crazy athletes do. For now he has me on a Half-Marathon speed program which I intend to begin with the first week in September. My long term goal is to be able to go sub 1:29 at Edmonton Police Half-Marathon which means being able to run below 4:13min/km for the duration of the race. After completing this race in April, I will rest up and begin increasing the duration of my base and long runs towards the longer distances I need in order to do the Grizzly.

The training plan looks something like this:

Tuesday – Base Run < 60 minutes

Wednesday – Intervals or Tempo Run

Friday – Base Run < 60 minutes

Saturday or Sunday – Long Slow Run or Intervals

Since I really neglected my run near the latter half of the summer, averaging about 12km/week, I plan on getting my distance back up to around 25km/week and then will increase the volume slowly through September and October as biking season ends and my legs are more likely to survive  the 40+km/week the plan calls for.

Triathlon

I am not completely sure what my plans are for Triathlon next year. I am considering the move to longer course racing. I think I have the ability to race a Half-Ironman in a reasonable time. I am considering racing either Calgary 70.3 or Great White North however I cannot afford to do both. I am also considering the possibility of doing the Kelowna Apple again. I have a score to settle with that race. I feel with consistent off-season swimming, biking, and the run plan I intend to do, I will be fairly strong coming in to next year.

In terms of swimming, I’d like to crack the 30 minute barrier for the 1500m open swim. My best time this year was 31:40 at Edmonton ITU without a wetsuit. This takes a combination of sighting and fitness, which I think should be well within reach next year by swimming twice a week regularly through the Winter. This also means getting my race pace under 2:00min/100m. Without consistent summer training I believe I have gotten it down to somewhere around 2:05min/100m. Blazing fast, I know.

Bike Racing

I plan on hitting bike racing hard next year starting with Velocity Stage Race, Pidgin Lake Road Race, Devon Bikefest, Banff Bikefest or Rundle Mountain Stage Race, and then finally Superweek in Calgary if I’m not frazzled from all of the other racing I’ve done to that point. Ideally I hope to upgrade into Category 4 next year. Another Fall/Winter of hard work on the spin bikes plus hitting bike season earlier should enable me to score the remaining 20 points I need to make the jump fairly early in the season.

Fall/Winter Training Schedule

Monday – Core 1 hour, Swim 1.5 hours

Tuesday – Run 1 hour, Bike 1 hour

Wednesday – Run 1 hour

Thursday – Core 1 hour, Swim 1.5 hours

Friday – Run 1 hour, Bike 1 Hour

Saturday – 2-3 hours of biking/running or Off

Sunday – 2-3 hours of biking/running

Total: 12 – 16 Hours

Or, subtracting for about 30 missed workouts due to resting, holidays, school, social life I should log somewhere between 325 – 475 hours of training during the school year. Since the beginning of April I’ve logged 185 hours not including swimming which I suspect would push the total to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 225 hours. That also includes some pretty hard race tapers, and a 2 week dead zone where I did virtually nothing in July after Edmonton ITU.

Devon Grand Prix 2012

This weekend was my first attempt at Road Racing. At the start of this year I told myself I wouldn’t race because it was too dangerous and I didn’t think I would be strong enough to be competitive. After I was rooked into going out to a Spring Series race I quickly changed my mind. Since the spring race I’ve come quite far. I’ve averaged about 250km/week of riding and have spent a bunch of time doing intervals and hill climbs which have had a large impact on my speed, power, and endurance.

This weekend was the Devon Grand Prix which consisted of two independent races. The first was the United Cycle Downtown Criterium Provincials in the afternoon on Saturday. The second was the Juventus Gennesee Hills Road Race on Sunday morning.

The crit race was a nerve racking experience. Unlike a road race where there is a considerable distance to travel, the crit consisted of 15 laps of about 900m. This meant that the race would last for about 20 minutes making very little room for error in terms of positioning and pacing. The cornering was intense at high speeds, but I felt comfortable and strong making tough turns in the big group and never once felt really scared about crashing. My starting spot was another story, from the get go I allowed a bunch of other riders to line up in front of me, making it very difficult to move to the front of the group. After the one parade lap, the pace car pealed away and we were off. I felt strong in the corners but was at the very back of the 35 man group. My legs felt good for the first couple laps and  I really worked hard to move myself to the front so that I was in a better position for the sprints that happened every 5 laps. I eventually made it into the top 10 as of about the 6th lap. By this point the lead pack had begun to breakaway from the main group. The guys, lead by Keegan, were really hammering and I was trying my hardest to hang on for dear life. At this point a gap of about 50m split the two packs apart. I was beginning to fade from the relentless speed and not getting on people’s wheels properly and was dropped from the lead group. I tried to fight my way back on but wasted a lot of energy in no man’s land between the two packs where I was also fighting unnecessary wind resistance. This went on for about a lap before the chase pack caught me. By this point I had went well over my red-line in terms of power output and heart rate and was really crashing hard. The weather was beautiful at 25 degrees, arguably the hottest day of riding this year. This mixed with the new black ERTC team kit I was wearing, and my insanely high heart rate left me feeling really terrible with well over 7 laps to go. I slowly was dropped from even the chase pack as I had nothing left in my legs. That, mixed with a lack of air, getting the shivers from over exertion, plus riding solo made for a rough last couple laps where I worked hard to catch and pass the other riders who had blown up early.

I came around the corner of the final lap with a Juventus guy who had been latched onto my rear wheel post getting dropped. He pulled out to sprint past me, I tried following, but the Juventus rider who crashed earlier was walking his bike across the line and neglected to look to see the last riders coming around the corner. I had to pull out at the last second to avoid putting the oblivious rider into his second crash of the day although he would have deserved it. I found out that Keegan scored enough points for 3rd overall and avoided a mechanical which was really exciting.

The take-a-ways from that race are to establish a good starting position as quick as possible, and then sit in for as long as possible while minimizing the amount of actual work you do until it becomes absolutely necessary. I also realized that once I got dropped off the front pack I should have allowed myself to join the chase pack that was working hard to bridge the gap and use them to my advantage. I was really shocked by my Garmin data and realized just how hard I had been pushing early in the race.

On Sunday I had completely different results during the road race. The race was to consist of about 72km of total riding with two massive climbs in the very middle of the ride. While my ability to produce massive power for a short time such as in the crit is not quite where it needs to be yet, I have developed quite a solid base of cycling endurance from all of the 130+ km rides I’ve done. The hill repeat nights I’ve done this year with ERTC has also made me into a decent climber, at least for Cat 5. In total ERTC fielded 5 riders for the Cat 5 race. Kyle, our strongest cat 5 rider is also a strong climber. Our game plan for the race was to stay out of trouble on the way out to the Gennesee Power Coulee, move to the front  of the pack on the first hill, and then really attack hard on the way back on the second climb shortly after. We guessed we’d need about 6-10 people to make the break away work. Assuming that I didn’t repeat the previous days performance, that was about all we hoped for and didn’t really have a plan after that.

The race started pretty calm until after the first corner at which point the guys working hard at the front began to open up the throttle. We had a strong tailwind on the way out and were doing over 40km/h a lot of the time. As it was Cat 5, there were a lot of strange accelerations where a gap would open up by about 10m in the middle of the peleton but then the guys driving the pace would back off and the groups would rejoin.  I realized after this had occurred for the 3rd time not to waste energy working hard to get onto the front group as it was just a useless waste of energy. I gradually moved into the top 10 or so riders nestling in behind Kyle so that I knew I had a non-sketchy wheel to follow. We were just far enough back so that we wouldn’t have to do any pulling and close enough that we could break out to chase down any attacks that may have occurred. Fortunately no serious attacks were mounted before the hills as I guess everyone else had the same plan as attacking on the hills.

We hit the first down hill and were flying, doing well over 60km/h. Things flattened out and then the 1km+ climb started. The strong climbers were all near the front and as opposed to waiting until the second hill, started to fly up the first hill. Not wanting to get dropped I stomped on it, cruising past other riders who weren’t climbing nearly hard enough to keep up. A group of about 15 people out of 40 made it up the hill quickly enough to separate from the lead pack. As soon as we crested the hill, our Cat 5 turn around came.  I had just enough time to get my heart rate settled down enough not to blow up and we were descending again. One thing I’ve learned is that I descend quickly. I don’t know what it is, maybe my heavy aluminium bike or being slightly heavier than most riders, but I have an ability to descend fast. On the downhill, I pulled out around the pack and settled into a an aero position and began pulling away from the front of the group. I didn’t really have plans to go off the front, but thought maybe I could make the other fast guys do some extra work to catch up to me on the decline, wasting energy for the climb. This also allowed us to separate ourselves from the chase pack that was developing as a result behind us. The hill climb was nasty, I’ve never climbed that hard before for that long. I was red-lining again and barely made it over the hill but I figured everyone else was hurting just as bad and managed to hold on.

We managed to form an echelon among the lead group and held the chase pack off for the whole race. By the end there were a couple of guys skipping pulls who looked like they were hurting bad so we tried to up the pace so that we could ruin them for the sprint. Kyle and I talked about what to do with about 7km left in the race. If their hadn’t been such a strong wind I was considering trying to ride off the front as I felt like I had better long term power than in the sprint. I decided not to risk blowing up before the finish line and ruining my chance of finishing high. The 500m mark came quickly and the group took off really far from the line. A group of about 4 people took  off and I managed to get around the guys who were maxed out to catch them. I made the mistake of not getting onto their wheels and spent about 300m in the unnecessary head wind. Kyle managed to pull away, easily pulling off to take first place in the sprint, along with another Juventus rider. I passed the other two guys who were on their tails, but with about 30m left another Juventus rider who had been drafting me pulled out and grabbed third place by about a wheel.

I was stoked on life, getting 4th place was much better than I expected, and Kyle taking 1st was awesome. We executed the game plan perfectly and everything went about as good as I could have possibly dreamed for my first race. The only thing I would have done differently would be to have moved a bit closer to the front of the break-away for the start of the sprint and then getting on a wheel until about 150m before I pull out to make my move.

Here’s the Garmin data for the race: http://app.strava.com/rides/11641433. I was really happy with being able to keep my heart rate for that long. I feel like my HR thresholds have been moving up because I have been feeling really good at higher heart rates that used to ruin me a lot quicker. I also managed to get my HR up to a new personal best of 193 on the final sprint which is the highest I’ve ever seen it on the bike.

Coronation Triathlon

Well, today I officially became a triathlete. I also found out that you can do all of the brick’s, mini-tri’s and training you want, but nothing compares to the overall hurt that you experience in a real triathlon.

The swim was about what I expected it to be. I actually did a pretty good job of predicting my overall time and got seeded with a group of people who were all pretty close in terms of speed. Our lane had no real issues with passing or turning. One really annoying feature of Peter Hemming way pool that I discovered really quickly is that it lacks the little lip around the edge of the pool. While this really has no affect on you if you can flip turn, I cannot and it made grabbing onto the wall really tricky to do my side turns. There were probably about 4 or 5 really terrible turns that I had probably cost me a couple of seconds and some wasted effort.

The swim itself wasn’t bad, I felt I paced myself pretty well and made sure that I didn’t blow up. I did get the light headed feeling that I get when I really push my distance at high pace. It’s almost like a strong head ache, but I’ve had this before so I didn’t panic. I got out of the pool after swimming my 1000m and felt horrendously bad. This being the second time I’d swam 1000m in my life after doing 100m repeats and 400m time trials for most of my most recent training it was definitely a bit of a shock. I think it was more that I hadn’t really experience the feeling of swimming hard, or that long, then pulling myself out of the pool and sprinting for T1.

My transition was surprisingly fast. I got out of the pool about half a length behind the other 2 faster guys in my lane who said they had some major race experience and beat them onto the bike course. While I didn’t practise my transitions before hand, I really spent some time and thought about what I was going to do and laid my gear out pretty well. The toughest thing to simulate is the feeling of having shaky arms from the swim and feeling like you are going to pass out/vomit. Also, getting my tri-top on was another funny scene to watch. It’s tough to do when you are soaking wet.

The bike course was fairly tough. On the slight down hill heading towards the river, there was about a 20km/h headwind which really kills some of your momentum. There was one spot where the shelter was really good and the course got a bit steeper so I really pushed hard to get up near 47km/h ish. It was surprising how many people were not taking race lines, people were pretty much everywhere but on the fastest path through the course. This worked out really well for me as I didn’t have to deal with getting around people who were in the race line. The uphill was tough to gauge. It was in that awkward spot between a hill climb and a gradual slope so you really had to work hard to find the right effort/gear to climb fast but not waste energy. Also, it felt pretty sweet pacing people with race wheels and aero bikes and aero helmets on my entry level road biking Cannondale.

Other than the feeling of T1, the run was the hardest part and definitely hurt a lot as to be expected. I was familiar with the rubbery feeling that accompanies changing from the bike to run was from all of the brick sessions I’d done. But for some reason I had gotten really tight on the front-outside of my leg between my knee and my ankle. I have felt the feeling before when running on a sloped highway so maybe the strange elevations and angles of the roads and paths caused it. It really felt like the limiting factor in my run. I was going about as fast as possible without it exploding in pain. That being said I was still around ~165bpm average on the heart rate and was still going fairly fast. The only flat part of the course was the last 1.5km.  I started feeling a bit stronger and the pain in my leg either went down or adrenalin kicked in and I was able to lay down some sub 4min/km for the last little bit. I sprinted it in to finish the race off, I think people thought I was dogging it and then picked it up at the end when really my last 1km was a sprint in comparison to most of the people I passed.

Official Splits(with transitions)

1:40:29 Derek DOWLING Edmonton 7/26   M2029 231 
Swim: 113th   21:56 
Bike 36th   47:28 32.9km/h (includes t1 and t2)        
Run: 22nd   31:06  3:54min/km

Takeaways

-Need to do some more distance work in the swim

-Once my tri bike shoes come, I need to practise the flying mount. Running down pavement in carbon soled shoes is both expensive and looks really dumb.

-There is definitely value to taping gels to the top tube of your bike, it’s hard to get at them from the side pockets of my vest

-Power Gel’s taste about 100x better than GU’s

-Need to get out of the shoes on the bike quicker, could have had a train wreck when I came flying up to the dismount line and wasted time

-Need to drink more on the bike, felt pretty dehydrated going into the run

-Need to run more, I’ve been neglecting it

-Need to brick off of road rides more, it’s a lot different than bricking off a spin bike

Also, based on my Garmin which is pretty accurate, the course was short by about 1.9km on the bike and about 0.7km on the run. The difference between 7th place and an age group podium finish was about the difference between my swim time and the average of our age group.

Glute Power Day

Workout Stage: Build 1

Week: 3

Workout Type: Power emphasis bike ride and hill sets

Purpose

Similar to last week we are continuing with our muscle mass/power workouts for the biking portion of triathlons or for road racing.

We started with a basic warmup and then did 2 x 1 hour sets for building power on the bike which looked like this:

(Repeated Twice – 1 Hour Each)

Warm Up, 5-10 minutes of spinning

3 x: 1 minute high cadence, 1 minute recovery

Exercise 1

Next we moved into one of the main building sets.

5x: 2 minutes at threshold(~170bpm for me) and should be at whatever cadence you feel powerful at pushing a pretty big gear

5 minutes of recovery

Exercise 2

This whole set is completed in TT/aero position.

5 minutes pushing a really big gear at about ~70-75rpm, getting the heart rate up to threshold(again ~170bpm for me)

10 minutes at about ~90-95rpm maintaining the same effort pushing a fairly large gear still

5 minutes pushing a really big gear at about ~70-75rpm, getting the heart rate up to threshold(again ~170bpm for me)

This workout was arguably the toughest spin workout I’ve ever done. 20 minutes at threshold is hard work.

Next we went for a run.

Warmup

Comfortable pace for about 15 minutes(about 4:45min/km for me)

Then find your favorite long hill.

Exercise 1

3-5x: 1 minute hill bounds: Bound up the hill using your glutes, they should feel fatigued near the top

Exercise 2

2-3x: 1:30 of running up hill without the heels of your feet touching, should feel it in the calves. It’s like running calve raises.

Cooldown

15 minutes at a comfortable pace.

This was a real good workout. Unfortunately I cramped up in my quads at the end of exercise 1, and only could do 1 set of exercise 2 because I had to get out of the valley I was in. Oh well, with time my body will adjust! Overall the workout ended up being about 2200 calories burned. So it was ice bath time and lots of food when I got home.

Also, as a side note, I saw a really cool article on Sweat Science(check it out) about age related muscle loss and triathletes. This makes me want to keep with this until the day I keel over: http://sweatscience.com/the-incredible-unaging-triathlete/

Bike Power Day

Workout Stage: Build 1

Week: 2

Workout Type: Power Biking and Stair Sets

Purpose

Last night we started with a new workout for Tuesday nights. Instead of doing the regular 1 hour run, 1 hour bike, we did a 2 hour run followed by some running. The basic idea of this new workout day is to build more muscle mass for the biking portion of triathlons or for road racing. Now that we have developed some muscular endurance and have cardio in place, the advanced or more serious members in the club are doing this to help gain some more power on the bike and muscle in the legs.

We started with a basic warmup and then did 2 x 1 hour sets for building power on the bike which looked like this:

(Repeated Twice – 1 Hour Each)

Warm Up, 5-10 minutes of spinning

Exercise 1 – Big Hill Climb x 3

The trick with this one was to try and be at maximum threshold by the time you reach standing climb and maintain that until you enter recovery in Aero. The target heart rate should be between 165-180 bpm.

2 min aero(90-95  rpm),

1 min seated(Up intensity, 85-90 rpm),

1.5 min seated(Up intensity, 80-85 rpm),

1.5 standing(Maintain intensity, 65-75 rpm),

2 min aero(Maintain, 90-100 rpm),

3 min aero(recovery, 90-100 rpm).

Exercise 2 – Max Effort 1 Min On/1 Min Min Effort Recovery x 5

This exercise is designed to work on power as well, target heart rate should be between 165-185 during the sprint. During recovery, back off as much as possible to allow the legs to recover. You want to be pushing the biggest gear you could manage on a flat straight away while still feeling powerful. I find I am the most powerful at 95-100 rpm so I tried to find the highest resistance that I could hold at this cadence over 5 sets.

On the 4th set, try and beat your 1 set cadence by approximately 5 rpm. On the fifth, set try and hold your first set cadence.

Cooldown – 10 minutes

Cooldown Speed Set:

Start at 80 rpm, build up 10 rpm / 20 seconds until you reach 120 rpm, hold for 30 seconds, then reduce cadence by 10 rpm every 20 seconds. Make sure to put enough resistance on at high cadences so it feels like you are pushing against something to avoid doing damage to your legs.

For the remaining time do whatever it is that you normally do during a cool down.

After doing this twice we went and did a great run workout also emphasizing leg power.

Warm-up

10 laps around the track or approximately 2km run.

Exercise 1 – Stair Set w/ Lunges

Next we did 3 stair sets with approximately 24 stairs per set and 10 stair cases in the set. In between sets we did active recovery by performing 60-80 walking lunges(30-40 each leg).

Exercise 2 – 5 Lap Recovery w/ Karioka and Buildups

Next we did 5 laps or so to get the legs going again after some inducing some heavy stress from the stairs and lunges. Following this we did 3 sets of Carioca(video linked below) going each way once per set for a total of 6 times over a distance of about 30m. After this we did 4 sets of build ups which consisted of about 15 butt kicks, 15 high knees, then accelerate to ~90% of top speed over 25-30m followed by gradual deceleration. These are designed to work on quick twitch muscle development and helps allow the body to coordinate movements at higher speeds.

All in all this workout took about 3 hours. My Garmin said I burned about 2400 calories so be sure to bring a bunch of water, eat well before the workout, and bring some snacks to eat during the workout as well.

Note: Living in Edmonton, Alberta in the winter means we ride spin bikes until the snow goes away in March or April. While the spin bikes are awesome, they are no replacement for getting out on the road and actually riding.