Thursday, August 11, 2011

Trust Your Tires.

I haven't posted much lately because of the intense pain in my legs. Unlike other Lincoln area blogger-cyclists who claim they aren't blogging because they aren't biking, I have the opposite problem: I haven't blogged because I've increased my mileage and intensity and my brain is fried from the endorphin rush.

My legs feel like concrete right now, two days after another session of Tuesday Night Critz at The Bridges. It didn't help that I lifted weights tonight. I normally put in 3 sets on the hip sled. I didn't get my 12th rep in on my second set. My legs said "don't even think about that third set" when I got up to get some water.

Participating in the mother of all interval workouts came about a few weeks ago, when I decided to enter the Flatwater Cycling Twilight Crit Series Race #2. I had a horrible race. I got dropped in the second corner on the first lap because I didn't want to cause a wreck by following a bad line in the turn. I hit the brakes to get a clear shot at the turn and lost tons of momentum. The wind after that turn was relentless. Watching the pack leave me in the dust while half of them were coasting in each other's slipstream was painful, both physically and mentally. I burned all of my matches trying to catch back up. 

I bought a one-day license and paid my entry fee, so I had to make the most of it. I pushed into the wind and rested a bit on the backstretch, where I had a tailwind. I tried hard to latch on to the pack or groups of other dropped riders, but my legs wouldn't have it. My average speed was just south of 18mph.

I got some advice on cornering from more experienced cyclists in the area. The advice given boils down to breathing and paying attention to your line through the turns. Weight the outside pedal and inside handlebar. Trust your tires.

I was also told that Lincoln Southwest High School's faculty parking lot is a good place to get some cornering experience: one won't go fast enough to skid since it's so short.

I spent the sunday after that race in the parking lot. I was taking three of the four turns at LSW at up to 20mph, braking only for the sharp 4th turn. There simply isn't a good line for that turn because the median wants you to turn to leave the parking lot. I wouldn't take it faster than 13mph. I think I did 35 counter-clockwise laps without stopping. I turned around and did about 20 clockwise before getting bored with the exercise.

I went back to Tuesday Night Critz for more practice, and got dropped like a bad habit after two turns and then lapped within 5 laps. This time it wasn't because I was slamming on my brakes and losing momentum, it's because I wasn't strong enough to keep up. And frankly, that shouldn't suprise anyone. I gave chase during each of the subsequent work intervals, it felt great to put in that kind of work.

I suffered greatly for it. My legs cramped several times during the night, I didn't sleep much, and most frighteningly: I wasn't hungry the next morning. Breakfast felt truly optional. All that meant I was dehydrated.

Truly stupid: I rode to work and then to my daughter's final softball game and then home the next day. 11mph was a grueling effort, those 19 miles took more than two hours. I drove to work Thursday then skipped my usual Thursday night gym session to finish recovering.

I've gone back to Crit Practice every week since. I've been able to keep up for at least one full lap before the Cat 1/2 racers decide to beat up on each other and drop everyone else. I still burn all of my matches during that first lap.

I also entered the third installment of the Flatwater Twilight Series. I kept up with the pack for a lap and a half and was one of four dropped by that point. I got passed by one of the other dropped riders who remarked "now that was fast!"

I latched on to other dropped riders' wheels at different points during the race, and when the pack passed me by I would hook on to them for a quarter to half a lap to get more experience at speed. They were only going 22mph during the last lap. I thought they were all dead or dying. No: they were getting ready to sprint. I got dropped right after the turn and watched a few people make moves to win the race.

I broke 32mph at some point, presumably during the first lap and a half. Pretty sure that happened right after the first turn on the first lap, I moved up the outside of the pack to chase down the leaders, then decided to back off about halfway up the pack, because I knew full well that I couldn't keep up that kind of pace for more than 15 seconds, especially when there's ~39 more minutes of racing.

This experience has me looking forward to the UNL cycling weekend in September. While I most likely won't win, I will be able to keep up for a lap.

Maybe two.

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