Bought or Earned?

The best part of the ride – The view from Lookout Mountain towards Denver, CO… Also not so exciting to think that I would had to ride 18 miles back through Colfax Ave to get home!

Two week sfter not touching my bike since I got off it after winning the team pursuit at elite track nationals, I decided that it was time to get my winter training rolling. Monday was just a short 10min spin on the rollers… I had planned to do a MAP test but soon realized that there wasn’t enough resistance to complete that. Abort mission! One hurdle that I have where I’m living (despite Colorado being a hotbed for cycling) is that the nearest climb I can use for a 20min FTP test is about 19 miles west at Lookout Mountain near Golden. On Tuesday after work I decided to head out west to try and do a test and see where my fitness is at.

The ride from Lowry where I live out to Lookout Mountain is quite a bit shittier than I expected. I’ve ridden some shitty places but the route I took (E. Alameda > Cherry Creek > Colfax > 6th) sucked balls to say the least. For one, riding 20 miles in a straight line while feeling like I was never getting closer to the mountains I could see ahead of me wasn’t the most exciting thing ever. I estimated that I’d make it out there in under an hour, but thanks to the gradual climb all the way out there combined with 100+ traffic lights and a few stops to check google maps to make sure I was heading the right direction, it took over an hour.

Finally I made it to the climb that I got my ass kicked on pretty badly the weekend for elite track nats. That was far from a happy day finishing 30th our of 31 in a race that I’d normally destroy. I passed a couple guys and gave a nod / wave as I rode by, then got down to business with my FTP test. I figured I might be at a low 300watts, so minus 5% or so for the elevation, 285w was the target in the beginning with the plan that I’d push more if I felt better. 5mins into the effort and 285w was a chore… One of the guys that I passed decided he was going to catch me, ride my wheel, the proceeded to have a conversationwith me. First mistake I made was wearing my national champ jersey from 2009… “Did you earn that or buy it?” was the first question our of his mouth. WTF. I played nice and talked a bit but having someone trying to yack away with you when you rode 18 shitty miles to do the test that you’re currently goosing is definitely an 11 on the 1-10 scale of irritating. I hit stop on the SRM for the interval, cruised for 10sec, then decided to keep plugging away. I started a new interval, but after 5min at little over 200w it was obvious something wasn’t right so I pulled the rip cord. The last FTP test I did was at about 345w, so even with the effects of altitude, a 300w should not be hard to achieve. Struggling to do a ride close to 285w is definitely not my usual self.

There could be lots of reasons… Hydration, Iron levels etc. so the first step I’ll take is getting some blood work done this week. At the least, that will eliminate or confirm what is causing my lack of watts. After 2-months living at 5400ft I should be acclimated!

I’ll have a P please Bob!

OK, so my blog followers probably won’t get the title unless you grew up in the UK…

So, right after my team won the Team Pursuit last Sunday I noticed I had a shadow in the form of a USADA chaperone… “Hello Sir, I’m here to take your pee!”. Knowing that this was a good possibility of this situation I hadn’t pee’d since arriving at the track and had been drinking fluids since my arrival. I had this one nailed. My USADA chaperone took me up to the area that they had set up for collecting said urine samples but man… That pee just wasn’t flowing. Commence gatorade / water consumption!… I drank, and drank, and drank… And had flashbacks to being tested at the Meadowbank Velodrome in Edinburgh Scotland the one time that I got 3rd place in the pursuit as a junior (A day of slow riding and slow peeing!).

Athletes came and went but my pee just wasn’t going! The very patient “collector” even tried some phone app that played the sound of flowing water. No dice! After almost 1.5hrs we went for a walk around the upper perimeter of the velodrome then back to the bathroom where I was now ready to pee like a race horse! Forms all filled out. Visual check of my urine to make sure that I’m not too diluted and bam, I was finally done and almost the last person to leave the velodrome. I’ve got to say, the USADA folks were VERY patient and professional… Thanks!

The remainder of the day was spent checking out of our hotel late (for an additional fee), rushing to meet my wife’s friend she hadn’t seen for 4 years (2.5hrs late, and only for 10 minutes) before having to make a mad dash to the airport. Enroute to rental car return, the copious amounts of fluids that I had consumed in the hope of performing for USADA were now hitting my bladder… HARD! On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being “I need to pee NOW”, I was at 15! I attempted to use the bathroom at a gas station but the line was 3 deep and too slow. The ride from Avis back to the terminal at LAX was painful and I was the closest I’ve ever been from pissing myself. Finally getting to a bathroom in LAX was follows by a huge sigh of relief and a 10min flow of urine.

Track Time!

The first few couple of weekends in Colorado were spent hopping between Ross, Target, and various furniture stores in an attempt to make our apartment livable! With that situation much improved I had time to drive south to the 7-Eleven Velodrome in Colorado Springs for a bit of training. Last week I managed to do something to my back and on Saturday when I rode, I could barely put any power down with my right leg and almost turned back for home after a couple minutes. Things were a bit better on Sunday, but still definitely not normal. 1.25hrs of driving later and I made it to Colorado Springs. After signing a pile of forms and handing over a total of $30 in fees, I was up on the track and doing laps. It was definitely good to be back on the track after not being there since Master Nationals in 2009… The banking seems more tame that the track in LA and the headwind going into turn 1 was just as bad I remember it being. I did a bunch of laps, a few efforts (well, as close to an “effort” as I could get with my back pain), then packed my stuff and drove back north to Denver.

The rest of the day was spent being a tourist around downtown denver… Convention Center (to see the 40ft tall blue bear “I see what you mean”), Denver Art Museum (designed by Starchitect Daniel Libeskind), then City Park (to get one of the best views of the downtown skyline with rocky mountain backdrop).

Into thin air!

I’ve been living in Denver, CO for just over a week now so I’ve had time to get in a few rides. Thanks to my stuff taking 6 weeks to get from HI to CO vs. 2 weeks that I was told it would take, I only have my track bike. As such, my training rides have consisted of riding around without brakes. Makes for an interesting ride, but fortunately I live in an area that has a good selection of flat, smooth, quiet roads that allow me to rip it up with minimal danger. So far the only real dangers I’ve encountered were a bunch of squirrels and a thunderstorom.

Walking around I feel fine with the move from sea level to 5500ft, but on the bike, the powermeter definitely tells a different story. What used to be a 400w effort is now a hair above 300w. Hopefully things improve soon as I’ve got the CO State Track Champs on July 6-7 then a the US Grand Prix of Sprinting less than a week later.

Colorado – Day 5

We’ve now been living in Colorado for almost a week… So far, so good, although we’re still living out of a hotel and not fully moved into out new apartment thanks to our belongings still somewhere between Hawaii and Colorado. My track bike made it here thanks to FedEx along with my race wheel which I took on the plane, so I’ve lined up a few races between now and nationals in August. My first race will be the Colorado State Track Championships on August 6-7, then I’m throwing myself into the fire racing the US Grand Prix of Sprinting which is a UCI event which should have a solid international field. I’m racing the Omnium there which will be the perfect dry run for US Elite Track Nationals at sea level in LA in early August. Now all I need to do is fine tune my training and find suitable places to ride.

Pacific hopping

Well that was a crazy week! It all started last Sunday with an early morning flight from Honolulu to Kauai to race Pedal to the Meadow for the first time – A mass-start hillclimb with 3835ft of elevation gain in 15.75 miles. A couple weeks before race day there was news that a pro from the Philippines would be doing the race. Sure enough, on race morning, said rider was there along with his entourage. I felt pretty good and was hoping to put in a good ride. It’s not like I island-hop purely for fun… I’m in it to win it.

I lined up on the front beside the pro (Mark Galedo) and the a handful of the best cyclists on the island (Ray Brust, Penn Henderson, Rick Beach, Joe Funk, etc). As soon as the race started Galedo took off pretty damn fast. Not one to sit back and watch 1st place ride off into the horizon I got down to business and chase on. I caught onto the back wheel of Galedo and was briefly joined by a rider who I later found out was Carl Brooks, but not much later it was just me and Galedo. His reportedly 116lb carcass was out of the saddle setting a pretty blistering tempo up the climb. I felt good so decided to follow and see how long that pace was going to last for… About 10mins into the race Galedo had a glance between his legs, probably to see if he had ridden me off his wheel, then he accelerated away as if he was on a moped. I’ve done my fair share of pro races including some UCI events and I’ve NEVER seen climbing like that. Quite baffling and it was apparent that I wasn’t going to see Galedo again until the race finish. I plugged away at 400w for a few more mins before easing up and just cruising the rest of the race. I rode with Penn Henderson for a bit before peeling off, and a few others, eventually crossing the finish line in 8th place. That 1100w effort off the line and subsequent 6+ mins riding at 400+ watts pretty much finished my race. I could have just sat back and cruised up with the rest of the guys and tried for second but that just isn’t my style. Go hard, or what’s the point. In hindsight, it was nice to ride the climb and enjoy the view… I just wish I had time to ride back down.

After inhaling some post race food, I got my flight back to Honolulu, packed my things, then flew to Denver, Colorado with my family at 6am the following morning. We stayed in Denver for five days to find a place to rent when we move there in mid June. Going from highly humid Hawaii to bone dry Denver, plus throwing in the 5400+ elevation was quite the contract. Working and living within a few miles of where the Batman shooting happened in Aurora feels a bit surreal.

Road trip!

Well, it was more of sky trip than road trip, but I put in too many miles last week. On Monday evening I caught a red-eye from Honolulu to Salt Lake City, hopped on a plane from there to Minneapolis St Paul, then one more flight to Omaha, NE. All in the name of work. Nothing quite like going from 85F to 30F overnight. Fortunately I spent most of my time indoors in meetings at the HQ of the company I work for. Going to Omaha, I was quite excited at the prospect of consuming a big juicy steak which I’ve heard and damn good. Unfortunately the dinner was a set menu and we got served chicken and broccoli on day 1, and pizza on day 2. In hindsight I should have not eaten anything and headed out for a steak after. Next time!

After the work portion of my trip was done I hopped on a place to LAX via MSP arriving at midnight, then drove south to my hotel in Wilmington. I should have gone to sleep immediately but Hangover 2 was on TV and I got sucked into that for 30mins. I eventually hit the hay at 1:30am, got a few hours sleep then headed out to the Velo Sports Center in Carson to ride the 250m indoor velodrome.

When I got to the track I met up with Giddeon Massie (Olympic track cyclist – 2004 and 2008 games) who agreed to give me some advice on my standing start. Instead of dragging my track bike from Hawaii to Nebraska and back to LA I shipped it to the track before I left and had to quickly throw it all together to get the most use out of the 8-10am Elite training time slot. Sharing the track with only 2-3 other riders (1 Olympian, and 2 US national team members) was pretty cool! After riding re-familiarizing myself with riding around a velodrome Giddeon had me do one start to see how bad I was. Sure enough, it wasn’t pretty, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere! He explained to me what I was doing wrong and what I needed to do right, then did a start which I filmed and watched back in slow motion together. After that I did a few more starts aiming for correct technique. Not perfect, but now I’ve got something to work on before Elite Nats in August!

After my track time was up I drove south to visit the Oakley HQ at Foothills Ranch. I met a couple Chinese guys that work for Trek in Beijing outside the entrance so we took some photos of each other. I was hoping to get on a factory tour but that would have conflicted with my evening track session. I had to suffice with a look around the entrance and lobby, which was still cool as the building it definitely one of a kind. I also managed to do a walk-in warranty of some M-Frame lenses which had cracked so that made up for paying a few tolls on the highway!… Which reminds me, it is nice to drip at 80+mph on smooth highways with NO POTHOLES. We need to get the contractors that do CA roads to come and fix O’ahu’s roads!

In the afternoon I inhaled some lunch before heading back to the track to ride from 5-9pm. They had a “racer” session from 4-7 geared towards riders interested in racing vs. just getting the velodrome experience. From 7-9 is Roger Young’s session. Both are run by Roger who has competed in the Olympics, won Gold at the Pan Am Games, and coached numerous Olympic track teams. The 7-9 session is structured and split into a fast group and slower group with instructions provided by Roger over a mic while he’s riding with the slower group or towing around the fast group on the moto. This all happens with music blasting in the background. It’s a pretty unique experience and I wish we had something like this here in Hawaii! The closer we got to 9pm my legs were increasingly fried due to the amount of time I’d spent at the track. You can ride a bike all you want, but riding on a velodrome requires slightly different muscles, plus throw in the fact that you’re riding at high cadence without a break and you’re body will start to break down!

On Friday morning I really didn’t feel like going back to the track. The prior days travel between 4 states and a few times zones with a screwed up sleep pattern had caught up with me! After lazing around for 30mins contemplating going back to sleep, I dragged my stuff out to the car and back to the track. It’s not every day that I get to ride a velodrome and I needed to make the most of the limited time I had! The last big of riding on Siberian pine wasn’t the best quality, but it was still time on the boards and I was riding up to the top railing on turns before I packed up my bike to FedEx it back to Hawaii.

It was a slightly crazy trip but a lot of fun and I made a few new friends in the cycling world. I can’t wait to go back!

MAP Testing

Yesterday I decided to attempt a MAP (Maximum Aerobic Power) test on my rollers… Unfortunately, as I had expected, a mixture of maxing out resistance and having to concentrate on balance meant that the results weren’t quite as good as they should have been. Today I headed out to Tantalus via Papakolea to attempt the same MAP test; Starting at 200w with a ramp rate of 20w per minute which is typical for Cat 1 / Elite / Pro cyclists. <Cat 1 and the suggested ramp rate is 25w/min. Had I not attempted the same test yesterday I reckon I’d have been able to get up to 440w or the final minute, but I had to settle for 400w this time. It was a bit of trial and error so not a huge deal that I didn’t set the wattage  world of fire, plus it doubled up as a good training ride. 75& of the final 1min of watts prior to failure gives your FTP. Similar to a 20min FTP test where 95% of your 20min power gives your FTP. Just another way to skin the FTP cat and also the same protocol used by British Cycling.

I shipped one of my track bikes over to LA last week and fly out to Omaha for work on Monday evening. On the way back to Hawaii I managed to work in a stopover in LA to train at the Velo Sports Center in Carson, CA (250m indoor velodrome) where Elite track nationals are typically held. I’ve not been on the boards since 2010 so I can’t wait to get in some real track time on a world class facility!