Monday, June 27, 2011

Why does my ass hurt so much?

This post's provocative title is designed to generate web traffic from all the sites that link to mine. There.  I admit it.

Multiple choice answer:
A. I rode a time trial for the first time in seven weeks and strained something.
B. I had my ass handed to me by Brady Murphy.
C. My other teammate beat me by one measly second.
D. The course's pavement is bisected by a multitude of taint-crushing expansion cracks.
E. I forgot my chamois creme.
F. All of the above.

photo by David Allen Seevers
Over the last few years, I've taken a lot of grief from my teammates about my bike face. Whenever Phil Mooney watched me race a crit, he would yammer about the pain cave: "You looked like you were in agony out there!"

Now Redemske's doing the same thing on his blog--he's using my grimace-snarl to accentuate his own sang-froid. It's true--I DO look like a serial killer at the start of this 24-mile state ITT championship.

By the finish, I'd calmed down a bit:


Okay.....not so much with me and the calming down.

Good things happened on Saturday: the rain stopped by race time. I got a good warm-up. The starter and "crowd" laughed at my joke: "Murphy-Feagan-O'Brien-O'Donell? It's the Irish Mob potion of the race!" I started slow and didn't blow up in the first two miles. I went a minute faster than last year in slightly harder conditions. My back never hurt. I managed a bit of self-deprecating wise-assness at the turnaround that made those volunteers laugh. I retained my mental focus throughout the race. I was the second-fastest Cat 3 in my age group. Brady and Leah won state championships. My teammates and I shared a good lunch afterward. Ryan Feagan rode the TT Eddy Merckx-style and learned that he prefers mountain biking.

Bad things also happened: I went too easy on the return and couldn't sustain a steady pace.

I was hoping for a big-gear tailwind on the way back, so on the way out, I deliberately spun a higher-than normal cadence to save my legs. But my legs felt great at the finish, so I probably saved a bit too much.

On the other hand, my breathing and heart rate were all over the place. I can usually sustain a just-below-threshold rhythm when I race a time trial, but this weekend I either went too easy or blew up straight into the red. I had to choose either Zone 3 or Zone 5c--there was no middle ground. Every time I tried to go just a little faster, I'd feel myself starting to pop. And muscling over the hills in gearing that I can normally handle left me wheezing by the time I reached the crest of the rise.

The entire race felt either either way too easy or way too hard, which is the result of the way I've been riding. I've spent plenty of time on my long endurance and not nearly enough time working on my LT and VO2 max.  I've done lots of volume (not by MOD standards, but still) and not enough intensity.

Last year was my first without Judd van Sickle and the UC Davis sports medicine people. I hurt my back really badly in November and never felt right until May, so I was willing to admit my mediocrity and just have as much fun as I could. I won a race and finished the season feeling like I'd done my best in difficult circumstances.

This year, I started training with a powermeter. I managed to ride throughout most of the late winter and early spring. But I haven't followed the sort of structured training plan that Judd used to write for me. I can do three hours of easy riding without dying, and I can hit the gas pretty hard early in a race to help some teammates. But I can't complete 60 minutes of intense crit racing without blowing up at least once. And I still can't climb.

I also don't race with the powermeter--my deep-dish carbon wheels and my Zipp disc are just sooo much faster. But I'm missing out on some good data. It's a dilemma. 

Here's what this TT taught me: I need to add some critical power intervals and work on some over-under intervals to help me recover faster from intense surges. I've got three weeks until Omaha cycling weekend. In the meantime, I'll race a crit in Lawrence, Kansas and travel to a crit / road race weekend in Clear Lake, Iowa. Those efforts should help me gain some top-end fitness.

And I'll work on my pain face.

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