Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Winter racing stage #4 - Rolling Hills....fuggedaboutit!

There are workouts that, while difficult, leave you exhilarated and inspired.

Stage #4 of the winter racing series was NOT one of those. Rather it was the kind of workout that you silently pack up, put in a box and never, ever think about again.

I just was not on. I showed up, and yet just didn't ever really get into the race. My average wattage certainly reflects that...20 watts less than the prior week. And it isn't that I had a bad race - I didn't. I just didn't show up for it.

So I am forgetting about it. Chalk up an uninspired workout and wipe the slate clean for next week.

Here's the stats: 24.14km. 29.6 kph. 1st place female (by a mere 3 seconds, but even so wtf?) 178 avg watts, 318 max watts.


Since signing up for Ironman in August, I have been deliberating my ride.

Basically there are two options: convert Ruby to a tri-friendly position by adding aerobars and a different seat post, or invest in a tri-specific frame. Either way, I need to be happy and comfortable for 6-7 hours. Fast is good too :)

So I set to work understanding the advantages and limitations of my options (with the ultimate limiting factor being cost!). Depending on who you talk to, the jury is definitely out on this one. Conventional wisdom will tell you that it is the engine, and not the bike....a well-trained athlete on a road bike will beat out a lesser-trained one on a $25,000 tri bike with disc wheels and aero helmet. So recognizing that I am not looking for a band-aid solution or and excuse not to train.....the question remains: which bike is best suited to get me through the bike course at IMC in the best possible position to withstand running 26.2 miles??

Each has their pros and cons - just as there are limitations on the standard road geometry in a triathlon setting, tri bikes also have limitations for strictly road riding. For city riding, hands down my Ruby is more nimble and safer. You rarely get a chance in the city to get down into aero position and it is simply not a wise idea to get into the peloton in your aerobars. Drafting = smashy the wonder bike. Tri-frames are also not optimal for high speed cornering or on technical, hilly terrain....on these types of courses a road bike is best (i.e., the 4-loop bike course of Stanley Park at the Vancouver olympic tri).

However, a tri bike IS specifically designed to be ridden comfortably and efficiently over long distances on flat to rolling terrain and in a more aerodynamic position than a conventional road bike set-up allows. The tri position, while strictly speaking less powerful than the road position, also shifts the work off your quads and more evenly onto the rest of the muscles in your legs...as such tri-geometry bikes facilitate the transition from cycling to running better than road geometry bikes.

So why not just convert the road bike? It can be salvageable, but it is NOT the same thing. Road bikes have longer top tubes than tri-specific frames, so the increased distance from saddle to aerobars on a road bike can make you too stretched out for stable handling. This not only impacts comfort, but also is thought to restrict breathing. Road bikes are also more limited as to how low the front end can be, which impacts aerodynamic performance of the bike.

So my research (and constant badgering of everyone I know who has an opinion on these matters) got me to the following conclusions:
  • If the main use of the bike is to participate in a long-course triathlon with the intention of doing solo training rides....the tri-bike is probably best.

  • If the main use of the bike is to participate in group rides, shorter distance triathlons or crit-style courses....then a road bike is your ride.

  • If you want all of the above....get one of each. Spending money on crossover use for a road bike is better used on getting a more appropriate tri bike.

So having hammed and hawed over my options for the last few months I have finally made a decision....Ruby is no tri-bike. And she's not going to be.

(Drum roll please......)

So with no further ado, I am pleased to introduce the newest addition to my growing IMC toy trunk and Ruby's brand new little sister...Ora. Isn't she pretty? :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winter Bike Racing - Race #3 - Time Trial

Wow. And I thought the "hilly course" was tough.

This week's pain was served up in the form of a 22k time trial -a steady uphill ramp with more grade increases than decreases. Worse, my heat was comprised of one of the fastest bikers at Peak and two other males. Lovely.

At the get go, I fell into 4th place. The other three took off like raging bulls and I just kept saying to myself...pacing, pacing, pacing. The pace was a lot faster than the previous week, but even with no steep inclines I knew that I had to keep my cadence even and strong. 10 minutes in, that strategy was paying off and I was only about 350m back of the next racer, and closing fast. Steady pacing and moving into the small ring on the grades seemed to help. No gasping and tongue wagging like last week.

At 15 minutes in, I was hating the whole thing less than the prior week.

At 20 minutes in, the hate was back. The harder I pushed, the harder the course pushed back. At some point, I actually pulled into second place (wtf?) and was just trying really hard to keep it together.....I didn't want to be the wimpy girl that bonked after trying to keep up with the boys!

At 19km in, the reality set in that I was going to finish and possibly in second place. 3rd and 4th were closing fast but the little voice in my head was going nah nah nah nah nah....so I moved into the big ring and started hammering as hard as I could up the final incline. Volume on the i-pod cranked. Steady at 31 kph. Breathe.

At 43:21 it was all over....and worth the effort! Second place in my heat. A little worse for wear, but on the pain scale probably only a 8.5/1o as opposed to the 10/10 for the hilly course.

Stats for Race #3: 22.53km. 43:21 total time. 31.2 kph avg. 45.8 kph max. 200 watts avg. 321 peak watts. 12/33 racers total.

Until next week!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Zone 3 on my bike....seriously?

After a little peer pressure, I signed up for stage 2 of Peak Centre's winter racing series (check it out at http://www.peakcentrevancouver.ca/race_series_2009-10.php). It's a 23-stage indoor cycling series that lasts throughout the winter....aka my excuses of too rainy, windy and cold to get on my bike do not apply :o)

Up to 6 riders at a time are linked to computrainers, which apply resistance based on the pre-set course. My first ride out "Pre-Season Race #1" was a 25k hilly course. There were only 3 riders in my heat, one of them very strong and very elite....pretty humbling all in all.

The experience can be described in one word: Gasp.

The dreaded Zone 3 on a bike is every bit as hard as running. Maybe even worse because of the resistance being applied and the relentless grade changes. I damned near threw in the towel at 20 minutes - it was THAT painful. At just under an hour the little yellow biker on the screen finally crossed the finish line and I was so relieved. Having been my first time on a computrainer and first time doing Z3 on a bike, I had nothing to compare it to. It was just bloody HARD.

....and then I signed up for next week!

So here's the stats for pre-season #2 hilly course: 59:04 total time. 25.5 kph avg speed. 47.3 kph top speed. 158 avg watts. 316 peak watts. 2nd female. Not sure what that means....but hopefully there will be some improvement over the "indoor" race season!