Thursday, 23 July 2009

Information - Help or Hinder

Anyone I have communicated with who is remotely involved in cycling, and many people who are not would have been informed with not very much humility of my Mt Coot-tha climb on Tuesday morning.

It was dark, it was cold and I confess to asking myself just what the hell I was doing there.

I did the alternative approach to the start line by going up through Bardon and past Sommerville College. Yes, the soft way. At the right hand turn onto the mountain road, I stopped to adjust my headlight - it was very, very dark - and waited a moment deciding whether I would continue or not. But being there, it seemed silly to go back and I reconciled the situation by deciding on one only accent.

Just as I reached the start line, another cyclist came up beside me and said hello calling me by name. I had no idea who it was in the dark and must have looked puzzled until he said his name, Stephen.

Stephen is a very strong cyclist and was straight out of the saddle doing a strength exercise riding a 54/18 and continued to do so until he was out of my site some about 5 minutes later.

On crossing the start line, I hit the timer and just settled into my rhythm, aware that in the dark I was unable to read my bike computer or heart rate monitor therefore having no idea of speed, cadence, time elapsed or heart rate.

Having nothing to distract me, I simply concentrating on my pedal stroke and breathing.

My perception was of doing a reasonable climb but due to the recent hamstring injury restricting my training, I had no expectations of a great climb. I was thinking something around the 12 minute mark.

Up I went, pedal stroke and breathing. I overtook a few people and was aware of being overtaken (once). I was also aware I was not breathing anywhere near as heavily as the others on the mountain so I pushed a little harder.

This is a regular climb and I have several land marks I aim for. There is a part of the mountain that kicks a few percent for 300 or so metres. I have a tree at this part of the climb after which I allow myself to get out of the saddle but only until the armcor barrier starts again. (I usually count 100 pedal strokes). I was a little surprised to get to it seemingly quickly and in no distress so I clicked it up 2 gears, got off my butt and started counting to 100. And at 75, clicked it up another gear.

I settled back in the seat after 100 down thrusts and regained rhythm until the last 100 metres where I went for the line. Hitting the timer as I crossed the line I was thinking a time in the high 11 minutes. Stopping to get a look at the timer in the bike headlight, I was shocked and surprised to see 10 minutes 49 seconds. By far my best time.

So what does this tell me?

Perhaps it tells me that riding on feel and concentrating on doing the genuinelly important things really well is the key priority. After all, what is more important than breathing and pedalling when cycling.

Perhaps it also tells me that having speed and cadence data available means I actually hold myself back at some level of perceived (but not actual) maximum effort.

I do ride to some heart rate rules determined by my cardiologist. I therefore expected my monitor download to reveal that I had exceeded my required limits. But no, if anything, they were on the low side when compared to other Mt Coot-tha climbs.

The questions I have are:
  • Can all the on board data we have available actually result in us applying some form of mental hand break on our performances?
  • Is how we analyse and use our data in planning training and assessing race performances more important than having the information on hand during the ride or race?
I think the answers are to combine both - somehow.

By the way, does anyone have a spare power meter?

For the record, I completed the loop and then headed up the short side to the Cafe - just to cool down.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

If you are a Goose - Stay on the farm

This morning’s race went well for all but 800 metres.

A good field with some strong riders worked well for the first 20 minutes.

A few attempts to break it up resulted in 6 of us getting clear and again, we worked well be it with a few attacks when heading down the straight into a very strong wind.

A good pace was maintained and it was looking like a bunch sprint to decide the places.

My sprinting ability is only marginally better than my ability to fly from Brisbane to London - without the aid of an aircraft so I decided to position myself at about 3rd wheel into the penultimate lap with a view to attacking just after the rise at the end of the straight as we went into the bell (last) lap.

It all worked perfectly. Off the turn I went for it; out of the saddle shifting up the gears before settling back on the drops and concentrating on the pedal stroke – full pressure – good circles.
I managed a gap of about 40 metres very quickly and a glance back suggested there was not much happening behind me. A glance at the speedo showed 51 kph and while I knew I could not maintain that speed, I thought I could keep it above 40 and there was a strong head wind to face when we hit the straight.

Coming to the third last corner, there was a lapped rider to the far right of the circuit (as he is meant to be) So I set myself to apex the corner and overtake him with plenty of space to spare.
Just to be sure and realising we would enter the corner together, I called to the rider to let him know I was coming.

So I come into the entry and set my exit line, speed has dropped off to 47 kph.

AND the other cyclist decides he will also apex the corner and came straight across in front of me. He was perhaps doing 25 kph sitting high in the saddle and hands on the cross bar. I am doing 47 kph down low on the drops pushing as hard as I can and hurting like hell.
My next move is to scream at him in the hope that he pulls out of his attempt to take the apex. No such luck – he keeps coming.

I grab 2 handfuls of brake and lock the bike up missing him by centimetres and ending up on the grass.

As I was providing the guy with a free character assessment using the full range of socially unacceptable adjectives, the other cyclists still in the race went past.

I don’t really care about not winning or placing in the race. Hell, the prize money isn’t that important when the credit card isn’t yet maxed out.

I do care about the lack of attention by the lapped rider and the lack of care for others safety.

Bike racing is dangerous. Incidents happen in racing. Fact of life. You cannot call yourself a cyclist until you have come off. But, when you get a goose racing like we had this morning, it is dangerous for all and in a situation when there is no need for danger.

Peeved yes – but cannot wait until the next race opportunity.

And yes, I gave him another mouthful on the warm down lap.