And we’re off – sort of…

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

The race season starts in March – for me anyway.  After a winter holed-up training indoors it always feels like the light at the end of the tunnel when the first race comes around.  Cue the stirring music.

Excited.

Ready.

(Sound of needle scratching across vinyl…)

Disappointment.

The M&DTTA 10 on Saturday 11th was moved from J4/17 to J2/3 due to roadworks.  Earlier in the week the forecast was for strong winds and rain but it was dry with relatively light winds on the day.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

It was good to catch up with folks again and just be around an HQ again.  Hearing about their winter training.  Looking at shiny new kit.  Chewing the fat.

Down to business and everything went fine in my warmup and I felt okay.  I’d not trained in my new position over the winter but didn’t think that would be a big deal – I’ve never done that in any previous winter.  What I have done in the past though, which weather and time didn’t permit me this year, was take the TT bike out and ride at full speed for a few practice 10’s.  Riding to the start in position I started to realise I didn’t feel comfortable at all, a sensation that worsened as I set off.  My new-for-this-season Aerocoach armrests really dig in at the sides so they’ll take some getting used to, and my new lower front end and extended neck position were very uncomfortable.  A few miles in I was struggling to maintain the power output and by the time I reached the turn I was well down on where I thought I should be power-wise. I tried to push on hard, trying to use the discomfort as a motivator, which worked until I was held up by a queue of traffic trying to pass a slower rider and had to back off.  The breather I got meant I could attack the last mile so I recovered a bit but still finished nearly 20W down on the same ride last year, albeit only 1s slower.  It was a big disappointment because it’s the first time I’ve started the season with a worse performance than the previous season.  I knew I’d feel bad in the first race, I always do.  But not this bad.  With a couple of days hindsight I decided it wasn’t as bad as I first thought and I suspected it was down to the position and being race-rusty having not been out for a practice run – after all my average power increased in the second half of the race, even with a big drop due to being held up by traffic.  8th from 63 riders (£10 3rd veteran on standard, £10 1st team)

So I decided to bite the bullet and try training in position the following week.  I also swapped turbo trainers to a smart trainer that arrived after several months on back-order.  All I can say is wow!  It was (is) much harder and being in position definitely elevated my heartrate and made my legs hurt in all new ways!  By the weekend I was feeling more confident but realised it probably wouldn’t be a quick fix.  On a related note I’ve also been playing about with Zwift on the days when I’m supposed to be doing “easy” sessions – unfortunately it does somewhat draw you into going a bit harder than you should!  It is very clever though, especially the simulated road effect when you are riding over virtual cobbles or gravel, and the noticeable effects of inclines and drafting!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

The weather forecast  for the next Saturday race was pretty awful and it was spot on!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was much more comfortable when I set off but it didn’t take long to realise that I was still struggling to maintain my power.  What I realised was that everything felt compressed and I think that was affecting my breathing in some way.  Mentally I just ignored it and tried to push harder which worked a little bit (my power after the turn into the headwind wasn’t so bad but nowhere near the gains I’d seen on the turbo).  As per usual on this course I was held up a little bit, but I was also pretty wet and towards the end the visor of my helmet was steaming up.  I shaved a couple of seconds off and moved up a couple of places.  6th from 78 riders (£15, 1st veteran on standard)

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Left – 2107, Right – 2016

Looking at my bike afterwards I realised that the Aerocoach armrests were really clamping my elbows much closer together than my previous stock armrests – it’s quite noticeable in the picture above, drawing my shoulders in and compressing my chest.  I wondered if this may have something to do with the power drop, so when I got home I moved the rests one bolt hole wider – effectively an inch on each side.  Time for an experiment with the next race, but during the week I also tried it on the turbo.  During a flat warmup of 200W my HR was static at around 117bpm.  As soon as I clamped my elbows together (simulating the position on the left in the picture) my HR went up 10bpm at the same power.  Back to the original (right) position and my HR went down again.  This was repeated several times with the same results.

The race on Saturday was with the armrests in the “wide” position.  At the start it was a bit of a shock to the system because the sun was shining and the wind wasn’t blowing!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I felt much more comfortable and pushed hard but was still well down on power – although I posted my best time on this course.  Still it was a lovely day and I enjoyed the race.  7th from 62 riders (£7.50 Joint 3rd on standard, £15 1st team)

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Courtesy and © Ellen Isherwood

It’s a hard course on which to maintain a pedalling rhythm, due to the narrow lanes and traffic slowing riders, but as I’ve done it before I doubt that is the reason.  As I can push big numbers out of position on the turbo I can only suspect that it is something to do with my new position overall and hope that I adapt to it over the coming weeks.  Here’s a comparison of my last 5 rides on J2/3.

  Time Average Power Air Pressure
19 March 2016 22:30 314W 1.272
12 April 2016 22:22 308W 1.229
11 March 2017 22:31 295W 1.232
18 March 2017 22:29 298W 1.228
25 March 2017 22:12 301W 1.24

Maybe I’m just getting old and it’s downhill for my power from here!  I hope not.

April will be a busy month, with 8 races all in including the first 25s of the season.  It will be interested to see what power I can maintain on those – last year it was about 95% of my 10 power.  If I haven’t adapted to my position at the end of that lot I never will!

In the meantime I’ve reduced my FTP in the various training packages I use, in recognition that I need to train more in position where my power is clearly lower.  It’s also still worth me remembering that I have not finished my training plan yet.  I need to do some more VO2Max intervals which I will be doing over the next couple of months.  I keep forgetting that I deliberately built my plan around peaking towards May and not March like last year.

For interest, here’s the training software I use

  • TrainingPeaks online – overall training plan and recording of TSS, CTL etc.
  • TrainerRoad – individual specific training plans and workouts
  • Zwift – still looking at this for workouts, recovery rides
  • Rubitrack (stored locally) – complete ride history
  • Strava – used as a hub for synchronisation
  • Garmin Connect – used as a hub for synchronisation

It’s a pain that some things will sync with Connect whereas others will only sync with Strava but it’s all set up and working so I’m loath to mess about with it now – they’re both free and I rarely look at them anyway.  TrainingPeaks is my go-to recording software and TrainerRoad my go-to workout software.

That’s it for this month.  During March I managed 358 miles outdoors with 17,700ft ascent at around 16mph average, which used up around 12,852kcals. I spent 28 hours and 42 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,626kcals. Total for the month was 2,887TSS