5 Ride | 8 hours | 160 miles | 2,690 ft | Training Score: 414
This was a pretty light week of climbing, coming off a week where I’d struggled with hilly longer rides. My legs definitely appreciated the little break. Focus this week was placed more on doing a couple of longer rides (63 miles and 39 miles) along with a short but intense TT on Tempus Fugit.
The long ride was the highlight of the week–done on actual terrain with actual people, eating actual food. I overate on this ride, and I don’t regret it. I’ve been trying to eat every 1.5 hours, but that didn’t seem to be cutting it for rides that were taking bigger effort. This time, I opted for every 45 minutes or so. I didn’t resort to carbs though–snacked the whole way on egg/guac mix and some beef jerky. Went through just under 4 bottles of water as well. Hydration hasn’t been much of an issue so far in training, but I haven’t run out of water yet either.
One huge difference I noticed in riding outside was comfort. This ride was planned kinda last minute, and all I had clean and ready to go was a pair of triathlon shorts–very little padding for a 3+ hour ride. I was surprised at how comfortable my booty was. There are more opportunities to move around in the saddle and adjust when riding outside that you get on the trainer. Another reason I’m happy to spend most time on the trainer–anything that makes the real pain day more comfortable.
I did find myself in want of some gloves. It was pretty dang muggy, and we even had some rain at the end of the ride. I never felt unsafe, but I was aware of my hands and that I needed to be mindful of them. Another big difference in riding a road bike that I’m just not used to. In the aero position on a TT bike you don’t have to worry about this.
More climbing for the next couple of weeks, and hopefully at least one session outside each week. I haven’t been doing the weekly TTTs on Zwift for a few weeks, and although I miss them, I think this opening on the schedule has given me a good chance to focus on what I need to do for Six Gap.
This post is part of a series where I’m overthinking my approach to training for the 2021 Six Gap Century ride in North Georgia. All time spent thinking and writing probably would have been better spent on the bike
At first glance this would appear to be the main issue–sitting on a bike for hours and covering 100 miles. The problem here is that, because of the climbing involved, and because I’m kind of a big guy, this ride probably looks more like 175-200 miles when you’re thinking of it in saddle time. To put it in running terms, I’m not training for a marathon, I’m training for an ultra.
If I were doing a normal century ride, I’d be able to count on some things like riding in a big group with a lot of draft. I’d also be able to discount some things like nutrition and hydration. It’s not that I could ignore those things, but they’d be less important. Riding at a pretty easy pace for 4-5 hours is a lot easier to manage than riding 7-8 hours on a roller coaster of effort.
One part of this is adjustment in equipment. Most of my bike time has been in triathlon training, so I’m accustomed to tri shorts with minimal padding–something I can swim and run in. I’m planning to switch over to a bib for this event. I haven’t had a chance to purchase yet, but it’s my cart along with a heaping helping of butt paste.
I’m trying to account for the saddle time by working out how often and how much I have to eat to stop the bonk. That means regularly doing 2-3 hour rides pretty often, even 3 months out from pain day. Something else I’m going to incorporate is two-a-day workouts–doing a long easy ride in the morning, followed by a shorter but more intense ride in the afternoon.
I did a mini-test this Tuesday with a pretty easy one hour ride at lunch (intensity = 73%), followed by a time trial sufferfest in the afternoon (intensity = 101%). Counting the warmup time for the TT, that ended up being an hour and 45 minutes of saddle time, but broken up by a couple of hours. What I’m trying to achieve here is not just the saddle time, but saddle time at different effort levels.
To be honest, the plan was to do a similar test earlier this week, but suffering from the keto flu (see weight loss plan) had me bonking on what was supposed to be a relatively easy route for the first ride. I’m definitely going to have to play with this approach and adjust as I go.
The bottom line is that I really don’t like being on the bike for a long period of time. I can do it once on the designated day, but I’d like to get there without having to do a 6 hour ride weekly. It may come to that, but I have time to check out some different options for now.
This post is part of a series where I’m overthinking my approach to training for the 2021 Six Gap Century ride in North Georgia. All time spent thinking and writing probably would have been better spent on the bike
Here’s a tough realization I’ve had to come to terms with: The biggest bang for my buck for speed and efficiency on the bike comes from not doing something. That something is shoving food into my face. I knew it was going to come to this. It’s just simple math. I can increase my strength and power, but there are limits there. The easiest way to improve my watts/kilogram is to decrease the denominator.
I have a complicated relationship with food. Actually, it’s not that complicated. My love for food is right up there with rugby, jiu jitsu, and, uh…other stuff. It’s a tough place for me to have the discipline to deny myself.
Weight loss has to happen for me to hit my goals, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. I’ve been at different weights over the last 30 years, depending on what activities I’m focused on. Playing rugby in college I was ~190 pounds and trying hard to gain weight. I was 215-220 as a reasonably fit men’s club rugby player, a step or two slower at 230, but I ran a marathon at that weight.
I tried to stay just over 200 pounds when I was doing triathlons pretty regularly, and that was a comfortable weight for that activity. Well, it was 10 years ago.
A couple of years ago when I was training BJJ heavily, my walking around weight was in the low 190s, and I could make 185 pounds without having to do any kind of weight cut–just a few days of being careful with the diet. I’m pretty trim at 185, so I think that’s a decent target weight for Six Gap. I’m currently floating between 200 pounds at my heaviest time of the day to 192 pounds right after a tough ride. I’m using 200 pounds as my baseline, just to be safe. Anything below 190 would be pretty good on pain day.
I’ve flirted with a ketogenic diet before, and I’m already wheat free, mostly grain free (tortilla chips are the devil), and careful about my sugar intake. This seems like the easiest path from where I am currently, and the more I learn about keto, the more sense it makes from a biological standpoint.
When I really started digging in and running my numbers using the formulas in Mark’s book , I realized that I’ve really been overdoing it with the protein. I was really shocked at the amount of fat I need to be consuming, and that’s going to be tough to accomplish.
I ran the numbers to get from 200 to 190 pounds in the next 60 days, and then I’ll assess where I am. Based on my activity level, my target daily calorie intake should be around 3,277. The macros break down like this:
Fat: 227g (2046 calories)
Protein: 112g (448 calories)
Carb: 50g (200 calories)
Keto gets me where I need to be, quickly. And this isn’t a cosmetic thing…your photo doesn’t go down in the record book, just your time. I fully expect I’ll be back to my fluffy self by Christmas. Well, maybe not…we’ll see what comes up after Six Gap!
This post is part of a series where I’m overthinking my approach to training for the 2021 Six Gap Century ride in North Georgia. All time spent thinking and writing probably would have been better spent on the bike.
I don’t ride my bike outside very often. The number one reason is safety, but I have plenty of other reasons. I like to get on the bike when I’m ready to ride and to be done with it when the ride is over–not a lot of preparation or clean up. And (living in Florida) it’s nice that the trainer lets me ride at night when it is a little cooler and on simulated hills. Maybe the biggest advantage I see in the trainer over the road is that I can get power metrics off my trainer/Zwift that I don’t get outside–I don’t have a power meter.
So how will trainer riding affect my experience at Six Gap? I won’t pretend there aren’t drawbacks, but I think the benefits of riding on the trainer far outweigh the limited benefit I could get from riding outside.
“What about riding with other people?“
I definitely recognize this as a skill that is important for cyclists. The thing is, I’m not trying to be a cyclist. Not a real one anyway. Not a poser one either. When I envision the next 5 years there’s a lot more jiu jitsu than cycling involved, especially outdoor road cycling. I think I’ll still enjoy jumping on Zwift and knocking out some races or getting in trail time while I’m in Tennessee, but I can’t see me falling in love with cycling and doing a bunch of group riding. It’s just not my thing, and it’s probably a product of spending most of my past bike time training for triathlons and riding alone, even when I’m outside.
“Yeah, but if you can ride with other people, you get the draft!”
Where is the opportunity for a peloton to form and save me tons of energy in this ride profile?
I’m not seeing a lot of draftable miles here. Not enough to make it a major focus of training anyway. And it’s not like I have ZERO skills at riding with others now. It’s not like I’m only comfortable at 2 bike-length space between everyone. So the gain of getting better at where I’m already sitting doesn’t seem that big.
An analogy is that I could swim faster than I can, but I’d have to put in a ton of work to do it. And if I put in that time/effort on the bike or run instead, I can get 2-3 times (maybe more) time improvement. So back in my tri days I quit trying to get better at swimming, and it paid off.
“Yeah, but you’re a big guy, and the practice descending will help you go faster.”
True, but we don’t have any 12% grades to descend here for practice. I’ll get some of that in when I’m in TN, but just enough to build my confidence. Ultimately, what am I going to do, try to pull an extra 30 seconds out of my Hog Pen descent by riding on the razor’s edge? No thanks. I’ll tap the breaks where needed, keep the bike upright, and finish a couple of minutes later. Besides, I can probably more than make up for those gains by getting better at climbing. And the more time I spend descending, the more time I spend recovering.
To sum this up in general…
I’ve been able to ride a bike since before I can remember. I’ve been better at it and worse at it than I am right now. I’m well aware that bike handling skills are a real thing, and I could get better at them if I applied myself. I just don’t see those gains having much of an impact for someone of my ability. For world class guys, sure. But at my age I probably don’t have the risk profile to even implement most of what I could learn. I mean, there are things I can definitely do on a mountain bike, but there’s always those few percentage of times when it wouldn’t work out.
At the end of the day, the reward just isn’t worth the risk or the time involved in improving. Not for me anyway.
This post is part of a series where I’m overthinking my approach to training for the 2021 Six Gap Century ride in North Georgia. All time spent thinking and writing probably would have been better spent on the bike.
Grit? Focus? YES!
Lots of people could do a ride if their life depended on it. Granted, they may not do it fast, and it would involve a lot of pain, but they could do it. But building the mental muscle to finish when you don’t have to is a different animal. I’ve had it before. I can have it again. But how am I going to get it? And how do I reach a point that will allow me to actually enjoy the event on race/pain day?
One of the best things I’ve learned training jiu jitsu is that you have to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” That’s something I’ve always known intuitively, but I really love the way that statement sums it up. You can’t prepare yourself to do something that is hard by staying in your “happy place” during training. You have to get to the discomfort and then force yourself to stay there. Repeatedly.
Of course, this has to be tempered, especially when training the cardiovascular system. You can’t spend hours in Zone 4 or Zone 5 every day. And that’s what I’m trying to develop a strategy around. How can I build up some mental toughness, even on my easy days? How do I create mental discomfort and focus?
I remember reading Chrissie Wellington’s book where she talked about Brett Sutton shutting athletes into what was basically a dungeon and having them run a marathon on a treadmill. No TV, no music, no phone, no motorcar. I’m pretty sure lights were available. This was all geared towards building mental toughness and focus. I’m not trying to win an Ironman Championship, but there are things here I can replicate.
For me, that means riding alone (no conversation) on a trainer (not going anywhere) in a 6×10 room (nothing to look at). I think I’m cheating a little by using Zwift and streaming music while I’m training, but I’m not Chrissie Wellington either. Zwift is actually the biggest cheat here because it gives me lots of metrics to consider while I’m riding–HR, power, w/kg, cadence, etc. This data keeps my mind occupied, but I wouldn’t exactly call it fun.
But it does to is keep me focused on the right things. I anticipate the biggest challenge on pain day is managing heart rate. Normally I’d say power, but with no power meter on my bike I’m going to need to be able to make the correlation between heart rate and power. It’s sort of like how NASCAR drivers don’t have speedometers. The real goal is to keep the RPMs under control–go as fast as you can while not over-revving the engine.
So all the other aspects of training (climbing, saddle time, intervals) are all built around this building of mental toughness. The trainer and Zwift lets me kill 2 (and on some rides 3) birds with one stone.
“Yeah, but you aren’t getting better at bike handling and actually riding the bike.”
It’s hard to call this a plan, especially since there’s a lot of playing by ear going on. It doesn’t have specific workouts laid out over 20 weeks or anything like that. This is more like a framework for a training approach, and it’s not based on any experience as a coach. It will be based on a bunch of data, which I’ll write about later. I’m the guinea pig, and I’m going to have to live with the results on pain day. I have some assumptions, some limiters, and a hefty dose of experimentation going on here.
What’s tough about training for Six Gap Century is that it isn’t just a century ride–covering 100 miles isn’t the only challenge presented here. Actually, the distance itself hardly factors in when you look at the big picture.
Six Gaps is a complicated problem. It’s actually a set of problems.
Yeah, yeah…I know there are lots of cyclists out there who have banked enough miles, climbs, and saddle time that they can just show up on September 26, ride Six Gap, then go out and to a 100k recovery ride the next day. But I’m not really a cyclist; not even a triathlete at this point. I’m just a dude who has done a variety of endurance events, but nothing this big that’s cycling focused. I’ve always pretty much middle of the pack, and if I can accomplish the same thing here I’ll be pretty happy.
I need some kind of training plan. And I don’t enjoy cycling all that much, so I need one that keeps me engaged.
So I’m going to approach this problem like I’d approach any other–what are the challenges I’m trying to overcome for this event? What are the problems that need to be solved?
For me, the big issues that need to be covered are:
I’ll start with mental toughness. In the end, I think this is the most important muscle to exercise. How do I plan to do it? Lots of time on the trainer, and not a lot of time outside. My past experience with mainly-trainer training has worked really well for me, and I definitely feel a difference when I go outside for an actual ride–it’s way more stimulating.
Imagine spending a few months listening to podcasts about nature, and then going in and watching a documentary about the National Parks on an IMAX screen. It’s that different.
The side benefit here is that the trainer allows me to work on almost all of the other aspects I need to address, excluding bike handling skills. I plan to go over my plan for each of these other issues in later posts, but I’m definitely going to use the trainer as my main training tool.
I’m going to break it down further in the next post. I’m always surprised at how much I have to say about stuff.
I’ve completed a few other races on this course, and I feel like I’ve not just improved in ability, but also in my knowledge of how these races are usually executed. Now I’m wishing I’d done race reports for all of them, but oh well. I’ve gotten better and better at honing in a strategy, and as a result, I was able to stay with the leaders for the entire 8 laps.
One thing that’s interesting here is that I placed third according to ZwiftPower in this race, but it was 8 seconds slower than my fastest time (23:11 vs 23:03), and I placed 18th in that race. I rode pretty even splits for both, so what’s the difference?
One, I think, is that I was in the lead group for this entire race. That means I was partly responsible for setting the pace. I’m not really an attacker, and now I’m thinking maybe I should be. I realized after the race that there are lots of Category B riders in these races. That’s actually a benefit for me because they help keep the pace a little higher and steady overall while at the same time trying not to get “coned” for going too fast. These are either tempo rides for them or they are lower leveled Bs who can’t compete in those races.
But back to me. I noticed that I tend to take my foot off the gas a little when I’m up front, mostly because my strategy is that I don’t want to burn myself up–I’d rather let someone else (those Bs) do the bulk of the work. The problem is that it keeps the good sprinters in the lead group and rested. I’m not really a sprinter…more of a lead out guy. Who do you think that benefits?
It doesn’t have to be a sustained attack. I just need one or two other riders to go with me and drop the hangers-on. And I realize that may be me. I remember reading or seeing on a video that it’s typical that the 7th lap in these races is a “rest lap” for people to save up for the end.
I’m thinking about trying to flip that on its head. I’m considering attacking in the second half of the rollers at the beginning of the course and up the slight hill on the 7th lap. This may speed this lap up a little bit while still giving me plenty of time to recover for the 8th lap. Basically I want to shift the “rest” until later in the race and shorten it’s duration.
The perfect situation to do this will be to get a Ghost power up on the 7th lap and an Anvil on the 8th for the cobblestones.
I’m not doing race reports on every race I do, but some of them make a big impact. Then again, I’m not reporting on all of those either. For example, last week I bailed about 20 minutes into a TTT because of stomach issues–a problem with the fact that I’m doing these late night.
I wanted to record some thoughts on this one for a few reasons. One, is that Rene streamed it on Twitch. Not enough reason to share usually, but I did really well in this race, and he documented it for me! 🙂
I also learned a lot in this race. It felt like it was paced perfectly for me. I started hitting the danger zone for heart rate with about 2k left–short enough that I could just keep digging for a few more minutes. I think the major contributor to this was that we had really strong B-ranked pullers for this race, so Derrick and I were in the draft giving a steady effort the whole time.
I sort of intuitively knew this, but I ride best when I’m able to give a steady effort instead of sprint/recover/sprint/recover. I’m getting better at the latter, but the steady effort is definitely what I’m built for.
It makes me wonder if the best way for us to improve our times as a team is for our strong B riders (they are really strong) to just pull the whole time. I know that the times people have to sweep back and pick me up are usually when I pulled one time too many and then I’m just hanging on until the end. Our B riders pushing me to ride at my FTP in the draft could still ride at a very doable pace for them.
As a result (like in this race) it leaves me matches available to start leading out a finishing push in the final few hundred meters. If you watch this race, that’s exactly what happened naturally–I started leading out and then other guys pass me to the line, but they got the benefit of me doing 4.5 W/kg from the beginning. Again–I’m not able to put out big spikes of power, but I can get up into the 400W range and hold it for a decent period of time that the folks behind me can use.
I’m really happy to be on a team with guys who write up race reports and post them to the ol’ Facebook for the broader team to read. That means I don’t have to write the whole thing myself–I can just take what he wrote and comment on it. Honestly, I can barely remember parts of this race as I was hanging on by a thread.
I did not want to do this race, but I’m really glad I did.
Just want to jump in and comment on Tom‘s race report right at the beginning. You can have up to 8 riders on a team, and the time of the fourth rider across the line is the one that counts. We only had 5. That means 3 fewer people taking turns pulling. Even if they were only doing 15 second pulls, that’s an extra 45 seconds of rest per rotation, which is a lot.
This course was well suited for us, being mainly flat and with hills of moderate grade. As this group has accumulated TTT experience everyone is focusing on some of the finer points of the experience—bike and wheel selection, various tactical approaches, watching earlier races (an advantage of being in Z14), studying the course profile, etc. If nothing else this gives us plenty to chat about in our warmup meetup.
I really benefit a lot by being a part of Team Skofnung, and the larger Valhalla team in general. Someone else takes responsibility for putting us on teams and registering us with the league. And once we get to the race, our team captain takes responsibility for deciding on the order and length of our pulls based on the abilities of each of us. Basically, all I have to do is show up on time, follow directions, and suffer. Watching races earlier in the day is super helpful as well. It gives me an idea of where other teams have issues and a general idea of how long I’m going to be on the bike.
Once everyone was warmed up and in the pen we took to the pairing screen to stay loose pending our 12 minute delay. Derrick had a glitch where the pairing function released him for a second and he drifted right to the banner, but stayed in the pen. Then in slow motion his avatar drifted sideways into Tom Neuman and pushed him over and even piled into Sylvan. Everyone stayed upright and on the right side of the line, and then we were off .We quickly got into our rotation, having agreed that we would use the rider panel except for the hills, when we would blob as is our custom.
Great lesson we learned in last week’s race, which had lots of rollers, is that we were pretty strong at sticking together as a blob instead of a line when we needed to do it. It’s a good tactic for us because we have a wide range of weights on our team–if we tried to ride w/kg on the rollers it would split us up pretty easily.
For this race we agreed to target a speed (40kph) rather than a w/kg as the pacing metric, and it worked really well. Tom N was assigned 60 second pulls in exchange for his request to be 4th in the rotation, with Sylvan and me each at 30 secs and Scott and Derrick at 15 secs. Sylvan made the call to increase his efforts to 45 secs to help him remain calm and nobody objected. He later raised it to 60 seconds, again without objection especially from me since I was behind him.
Lap 1 went exactly to plan, rotating thru the flats, and then maintaining a seamless blob up out of the desert and over the KOM. Either Sylvan or I would be at the front keeping tempo, Tom N staying in the middle to help close any gaps that might open, Derrick and Scott riding spot-on and maintaining position. We anticipated the possibility of the post-KOM rollers breaking things up, and simply did not allow that to happen. We worked hard that first lap but very deliberately within ourselves, understanding that a big challenge of this course was the distance and wanting to conserve energy to be strong for lap 2.
That last bit was huge. I’m a big fan of going out conservatively. If you have extra oomph at the end, you can always find spots to use it. But if you burn all your matches early, there’s no coming back from it. I learned from my very first attempt at a TTT that once my heart rate isn’t recovering I’m cooked. And not just for a minute or two. I’m really happy to be riding on a team that feels the same way. My splits for the two laps in this race ended up being 2 seconds apart. That’s pretty good for a race that lasts over an hour.
By the second lap we were still going well. Tom N and Sylvan were dieseling through their pulls, Scott and Derrick were tightly in the group, occasionally rolling through the front, and I covered some extra rotation time on top of my pulls to keep things going. We had noted early on that we were putting time into the team behind us, and that on lap one the team ahead of us put time into us, but on lap 2 we slowly cut into the advantage of the team ahead, and passed individual riders dropped by their squads. This was all further incentive to keep the engine room stoked.
The second time up out of the desert and over the KOM was definitely grippy, as everyone was feeling the effects of the distance and the effort. There were occasional 1-3 second gaps but always closed, with once again Tom N doing mini-sweep work with Derrick and Scott as Sylvan and I maintained tempo up front.
So appreciative of the sweep!
Down through the rollers really started to hurt, and at one point Scott encouraged us to press on without him. He must have been hypoxic to suggest that, as it is clearly against Skofnung Company Policy, especially with only 5.5 to go.
Huge advantage of riding on a team–they forced me through a tough minute or so, and I came out find on the other side.
So we gave the slightest easing of effort, he went inside-out to close back on, and we were again 5 as we hit the true flats to the finish with 4km to go. Those last 4km were awesome. We kept it tight like a for-real TTT, cranking the watts up front well north of 4w/kg and ramping up to over 5w/kg as the line approached, Tom N and Sylvan clearly giving it the stick and me contributing what I could, Scott and Derrick blowing up heartrate monitors to stay hitched on. We were putting even more time into the team behind and wiping out the early advantage of the team ahead. That last 1 km was absolutely brilliant, full gas and maximum effort by everyone to finish fast and together, knowing there was not a single watt left out on the desert flats.
No lie here. Upper 160s HR is the “danger zone” for me on the bike, and once I cross 170 I really don’t have any hope of coming back. I was 170+ for the last mile. If my front wheel had been rotating I probably would have tangled my tongue up in it.
Fabulous ride, and a real pleasure. Very much looking forward to next week already, and to having some of our regulars back with us (looking at you in particular, Laurence!).Have great weekends everyone, until next time.TP
I’m really excited about riding again next week, especially if we’re able to field an 8 person team. We are improving every week, and I feel like we’re starting to know each other better as riders. Last week we were 136th overall in the Latte League. This week, 106. We made big gains in our Zone as well. It feels like we’ve just begun to gel!
If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. At least I didn’t crash this time. Actually, the issues with this race probably worked out in my favor. For some reason, my trainer was not being controlled by the terrain of the map. If you’ve ever ridden this course and had to deal with the rollers at the beginning of each lap, you’ll know why this worked in my favor. I was able to ride a pretty steady power profile for this race, but it would have been “cheating” a little if I’d been able to place highly.
I was able to ride the way I wanted for a big part of this race–didn’t even try to stay in the lead group. Unfortunately I got dropped by the group I was in at the beginning of the 6th lap. I noticed that the next group was 38 seconds behind me, and decided to ride hard enough for them to have to chase (and catch) me, but easy enough that I could recover some and do well at the end.
I think I was in 23rd place at the time I got dropped.
The plan worked out pretty well, but now I’m not sure it was the right plan. The other group caught me at the beginning of the 8th lap. I rode with them until the sprint finish. I ended up 24th (on the Zwift screen, not in Zwift Power), which means I basically only lost one spot.
I wonder now what would have happened if I’d ridden harder. Since I was able to hold them off for that long; would I have put them out of reach by riding harder? Would I have caught up with the next few people who got dropped from the group I’d been in previously? Hard to tell, but my average heart rate ended up being my all time high, which makes me think I was legitimately dropped and that I wouldn’t have been able to continue that effort level that whole time.
Then again, maybe I would’ve had 45-50 seconds less total time riding. As it is, I was about 10 seconds slower on this race than the other one I completed without crash. I think I rode better though–my splits were pretty even up until the time I got dropped.
Then again, not hard to ride even splits when you can’t feel the terrain. Meh.
I pushed my old ‘puter to its limits, and Zwift crashed on me during the 6th lap of this race. Really disappointing, but since then I’ve replaced my old disc drive with an SSD drive. Basically a brand new computer for ~$60, and this thing screams now. I’ve done a couple of rides longer than an hour on high resolution graphics (I always used “low” before) and haven’t had any problems.
Unfortunately, I was doing pretty well in this race. I mean, I wasn’t close to being in the front group or anything. I think I was like 68th out of 133 when all ones and zeros broke loose. But I was riding pretty steady splits on the laps, didn’t go out too fast, had one other person I was working with the maintain position, etc.
Big changes from the first race were a lower cadence, not trying to get in the lead group and stay there, and riding the bumps much better. I also have a better feel of when to coast on the downhill section and when to use the powerups.
Anyway…that’s about it. Second try out was a dud, but will try again next week.
Zwift crashed on me during the 6th lap of an 8 lap ride today. Frustrating, but more frustrating because I want to at least look at the stats of the part of the race that were recorded. I did some research and found a great solution — FitFileTool.com –that will repair partial Zwift rides using their “Corrupt Time Fixer”. It’ll even upload the workout to Strava for you.
Not so fast. Everything seemed to work well. I could see the individual activity on Strava without any problems. But when I went to my feed and profile the activity wasn’t there. What the?!?!
I checked one more place…my activities. Not showing up there either.
But what happens if I search for it. There it is! It’s just showing up as happening on January 6, 2015 instead of March 5, 2021.
Sure enough, when I go look at the activity, it has the wrong date and time associated with it.
The Fix–Not Exactly
My first inclination was to download the file with the wrong date from Strava, do a search and replace for all the dates in the file, then upload it again. That mostly worked, but I think the local timestamp of the virtual location the race took place threw things off.
There’s a better way
Go back to the original file that was repaired for you by FitFileTools and run it through one of their other utilities–the “Time Adjuster”. This lets you set the start date/time of the activity and makes that fix for you.
Download THAT file and upload it to Strava, and you should be all good.
I considered doing individual time trials and crits, and I chose crits because:
There are more of them
They included drafting (just like TTT)
They are usually pretty short efforts (8 laps), so they don’t disrupt my FTP program much. I can just do these on an off day.
There are a bunch of Bell Lap races, so I thought I’d give this a go. I’ll be able to race on the same course over and over, try different tactics and strategies, document them, see what works best, etc.
Added bonus–I think there may actually be a correlation between how fast I can do these races and how fast I can run a 5k. Remember, I’m cycling in lieu of running so much, but still hope to get faster on race day. We’ll find out if this works..
I’m a boring nerd. I’m not going to even mention the spreadsheet I’ll be using to track all this…yet.
I picked the Friday 11:45 am EST race to be my “standard”. I’ll be able to make that one most weeks, so hopefully I’ll be racing against the same people over and over as well, which gives me another control point in the experiment.
Before racing, I did do a little recon. I watched a couple of races on this course live, and watched a couple of videos on how to race the course. Quick recap of what I learned and observed:
Like all Zwift races, start fast! Shoot for 4.5 w/kg
Flyers get caught in the first minute
Leaders ride the first lap in the high 3’s w/kg
After a couple of laps, the chasers are ~ 7s back, and some riding solo
After the halfway point, leaders are riding in the low 3’s, high 2’s w/kg
People get strung out on the bumps–that’s where attacks happen
Don’t fall for attacks on the 7th lap
Strategy and Reality
The winners of the races I watched were finishing in just over 21 minutes and around 3.3 w/kg. My 20 minute best effort is around 2.7 w/kg.
So…I’m not going to win in Cat C, and if I can put in a solid effort, a finish under 25:00 would be pretty good for me. The game is going to be trying different approaches in multiple races to see what works best for me.
The strategy for this first race was simple–stay with the lead group as long as possible and see what happens. I knew I’d get dropped, but the question was “when?” and “what happens after that?”
The good news is that I think I found something that doesn’t work. I was able to go out with the first group and stay with them for the first lap and a little beyond. But just like going out too fast in a running race, it caught up with me. Positive splits on every lap except for the last one (by two seconds…just barely).
I was able to finish in 24:22, and I think I could do a lot better than this by evening out my splits (negative splits?), but what makes cycling way different than running is that I need to find a group to ride with to make it happen. I rode the last laps by myself in this race, and I think that really shows in the results. I was putting out wattage that were around the same or higher than previous laps, but not getting any benefit of the draft until the last lap.
My question and challenge for the next race is how to find that second group, and can I stay with them. I think the key for me to do my best in these races is to find the right group that can support me for as long as I can stay with them, or find a group I can ride easy with and attack from on the last lap.
One thing is clear–I’m not worried about winning any time soon.
Still, I did want to do the makeup stage of the 2021 Tour de Zwift. It happened to be the climbing stage, and since I was only going to do one ride in this stage, I chose the most advanced one. Gulp. This took about 20 minutes longer than I was hoping it would. It was brutal. Another confirmation that I’m not where I need to be.
I did take a day off, but wanted to stick to the schedule. Legs were pretty heavy, but I went ahead with the FTP test. I’d done these before, back in the Trainerroad days, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Luckily, Zwift has a different type of FTP test that doesn’t take nearly as long and isn’t as grueling. I did a ten minute easy rise to get my trainer warmed up and did a quick calibration, then on to the test.
Unlike the 45 minute efforts I’ve done before, this one went pretty fast, and it only hurt for a little while. It’s a 5 minute warmup, followed by 1 minute intervals at increasing wattage. It didn’t even take me 18 minutes to complete and for my HR to get to critical.
I ended up at 243 for and FTP–for real this time, not virtual power. That makes sense. I was hoping for somewhere around 250. It’s funny to read back through old posts from before and see that history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes. I’m at 2.6 w/kg, and my goal (once again) is to get to 3.0 w/kg. Roughly, that means increasing my FTP to 270 watts and getting my weight down to 198 pounds.
Totally doable. In fact, I’ll have a hard time keeping those 7 pounds on if I’m doing all the workouts. My raw wattage may not jump all the way to 270, but if I weigh in at 195 pounds and hit a raw score of 265, the result is the same.
I’ve been doing a weekly Zwift recovery ride on Wednesdays with the Vikings – Valhalla team. This ride is super-fun, super-inclusive, and they seemed like a great group of people to ride with and represent. It didn’t take long to realize that this was the team for me. I’m doing this for fun and health, not for champeenships or money. Is there any money in Zwift racing? A different topic to explore.
After doing a race where I was not up to snuff, I can confirm that these are some cool people. No one dogged me out for not being able to keep up. In fact, they did everything they could to keep me in the group and only dropped me after the 2nd or 3rd time I told them that they should drop me.
As a member of a team I definitely feel like I let them down. But the best thing I could do was to let them go on without me. These guys were way stronger than me, and as I watched them finish as I continued to putter along the course I was amazed at the effort they put in. I have a lot of work to do before I try one of these again.
Race Report – Or at least the part I participated in
Zwift TTT is made up of up to 8 riders, and the time of the top 4 riders to cross the finish line is what counts. In the league we were in, there can be 3 “B” class riders and the rest “C” class. I’m a C rider, which means the responsibility to pull the group and ride at the front didn’t fall on me as much as others. We had a team of 6 in the start pen, but one of our riders had a technical issue, which had us start with 5 riders.
The call was to ride on raw watts over w/kg because we were riding a flat course. We were shooting for 300 watts at the front.
That’s 3.2 w/kg for me.
*Gulp* That’s hot. I was already a little worried. In the start pen I noticed my HR was over 100, and I wasn’t even pedaling–just nervousness and adrenaline, and that didn’t serve me well at all. Then again, they were only asking for 15 seconds of effort from me for my turns. I was determined to stay on for as long as I could, and I knew it was going to be about recovering for the 1:45 seconds my teammates would be pulling.
Since I’ve started riding again, the highest HR I’ve touched so far is 173. And I mean that I TOUCHED it. I can’t stay there for any amount of time. So I was really mindful of where my HR was and paying close attention to it. Two minutes into this ride I hit 158 on a pull, then I recovered. I hit 160 at ~4:00, and I recovered.
At ~5:00 I hit 161, and I climbed up to 169 in the next three minutes, and it just wasn’t recovering.
Somewhere between 10 to 13 minutes I fell off the back, and teammate Sylvan pulled me back to the group. I stayed in the 4th position for the rest of the time I was with the group, until the 20:00 mark or so. But I was stuck in the mid 160s and still struggling, so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do this for another 25 minutes. I fell off again, and Sylvan slowed down to try and help me catch back up, but I was cooked. I was having some trouble with Discord to tell the guys to go without me–wasn’t sure they could hear.
When they made the call to drop me (great call!) I was tasked with “just finish”. That way if someone else had an issue we would at least get credit for the race…just a horrible time. It’s clear from the power graph above that I immediately started soft pedaling and trying to recover. I knew my best chance for a better time was to get my HR under control and then ride the best I could.
It took me 12:00 to get my HR under 150! Once I recovered, I tried to keep my HR at a reasonable rate and get the best time I could. Pretty boring work, so I decided to watch the rest of the team finish. Wow–the effort those guys put in was inspiring to watch. And it was great to hear how happy they were at the finish line!
They finished at ~44:00. There’s no way I could have stuck with them. No way. It’s crazy to look at the graph of Sylvan’s ride to see how much he was recovering when trying to pull me back to the group. And the work he put in after I dropped is just crazy.
I still had 2.6 KM to go after the team finished, but now there was zero pressure to get any kind of time. Just riding for pride at this point, and I’d already had that taken from me LOL. I pedaled into the finish and did the sprint at the end. Woopity Doo!
Ok, so how do I fix this?
I learned a lot on this ride, and it’s pretty evident what I need to work on:
Increased FTP–I have a lot of room to grow in the C class
Weight loss (to give me better w/kg)
Intervals, intervals, intervals
So Friday was a light swim day–just short and easy to get the heaviness out of my legs. Today I’m doing the last Tour de Zwift ride that I missed to get every stage completed and a short easy run. After that (and a rest day on Sunday) the work begins.
Monday: FTP test. I need to baseline exactly where I am. I think my rating on ZwiftPower is a little inflated at this point because I’ve only had a smart trainer for a week. It’s evident that the power readings (estimated) from my dumb trainer were super inaccurate as the power increased. So I need a better baseline
Tuesday I’m going to take a rest day. Well, a rest from cycling. I’m actually going to get to roll on Tuesday! Woot!
Wednesday is going to be the start of a 6 week FTP builder. That takes care of increasing FTP, and if it’s like other plans I’ve done before there are lots of intervals on the menu.
And for the elephant in the room…almost literally…weight. When I was at BJJ peak fighting shape, I was walking around at ~190 pounds for most of the day. I was never under 200 when I was doing triathlons back in the day, and I think that extra 10 pounds made a big difference. I just hadn’t been small in so long I thought 200 WAS small. Now I’m aware of how much more athletic I feel at 190, and I’m motivated to get there from my current 205. Picking up some BJJ training is going to help with that for sure, but it’s going to be a tough row to hoe.