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WAR #2

Race report from John Tenney about the 2nd Wicked Awesome Racing Cyclocross event in Dade City, FL. 2016 October 16

hd-head-on-shotToday I raced Cat 3 at WAR #2. For an explanation of why I am in Cat 3 see the sidebar below. Following this race report there will be a discussion about how to use Training Peaks as a training aid, and how not to use it.

The Race
I did a warmup lap before the 4/5s, and then 2 laps with Mark Chandler (who later won cat 3) before our race to look at some lines. Mark slowed down a lot to stay with me and I appreciate that. My first lap with Mark turned out to be my fastest lap of the day. Of course, I was expending a lot of energy to keep up with him while he was coasting along. This should have been a warning that there was trouble ahead.

My first race lap wasn’t that bad. Yeah I was dropped immediately but I expect that in a category I don’t belong. Usually I start improving after the first lap. As I finished the first lap though, my “check engine” light came on. No second wind today.

hd-letting-josh-byI usually last a few laps before the leaders of the Pro 1/2 catch me and lap me. Halfway through the 2nd lap, Josh Thornton was right behind me.

Not at a good place either, as this was a steep downhill, double 180, off camber switchback. As you can see in the picture on the right, I am unclipping to put a foot down and let Josh by. Took a few seconds off this lap.

This kept happening. Faster riders would let me know they were behind me and I would slow to let them by. I wasn’t in contention and I didn’t want to mess up their race. I appreciated the reason to breathe a little, too.

I got in only 5 laps when the leaders got 7, on a longer lap than we usually have (this was 2.5K as opposed to 1.5). I know I am usually slower but not that slow. Mental worry crept in which just made me even slower.

Each lap I got slower and slower. Even though I got faster through the turns (happens more you do each turn) my straight away performance was down, down, down.

The bananas were holding down the results in the wind!

The bananas were holding down the results in the wind!

I just had no gas in the tank.

Every time I sat up and tried to push harder I found myself gasping for breath. “I need Oxygen!” was my gasped response to all hecklers. Even relaxing on a few of the (rare) easy sections of the course didn’t bring me back.

I ended up 9th out of 10, a gift because Graham Partain started and didn’t even finish one lap. Not sure what was happening there.

I can’t blame the weather. It was perfect, although a little hot. It was windy but that always seemed a bonus in helping to cool down. My weight is up a bit, but I’ve had some good rides lately where I had lots of energy.

I had also eaten healthy the past few days and fully hydrated so I can’t blame that. Why?

Now to figure out why.

Why Cat 3?

In 2015 there was much discussion about the small fields for Cat 3. I was “asked” to upgrade, since I was already racing in the open division anyway. I am at best a mid-pack Cat 4/5, but I said why not, it will be good for the sport. Now I ride around at the back of the Cat 3s. I have some work to do.

Training Peaks

I have been using the Pro version of Training Peaks for about a year now. I pay close attention to my Performance Manager chart, which lists a lot of TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms) such as TSS, TSB, ATL, CTL and the anachronistic IF.

Here is what they stand for:

  • TSS: Training Stress Score. A measure of stress of one workout/
  • TSB: Training Stress Balance, or Form. Indicates how ready (or not) you are to race
  • ATL: Acute Training Load. Related to TSS, shows how much damage that days workout did to your form
  • CTL: Chronic Training Load. A 42 day weighted average of TSS showing how “stressed” you are.
  • IF: Intensity Factor. Determined by time in HR and / or Power zones

You can read more about these at Performance Management Chart

I have found that earlier this year I seemed to operate best when my CTL was between 50 and 60. Over 60 I began to feel fatigue during races and other events before I should have. To improve this, I have been pushing it a bit and keeping my CTL above 60 for a few weeks to get acclimated to it. Of course this affects my TSB negatively. Prior to today’s race my CTL was 64.1 and my TSB was -12.8, meaning I was not on form. Not by a large margin. Ideally, according to the TP blogs, I should be at or slightly above 0 TSB prior to a race. Knowing this I entered today’s race with the thought in my mind “Well even if I suck today I can use this as a training event.” Well that’s what ended up happening.

The graphic below depicts my speed, heart rate, elevation and outside air temperature for the cat 3 race. You can click on it to see it full sized, and click “back a page” to get back here.

This Training Pics screen grab shows my heart rate in zone 4 and 5 the entire race

This Training Pics screen grab shows my heart rate in zone 4 and 5 the entire race.

As a training event it was fine. As a race, I did not perform as well as I could have with some rest and recovery a few days before. If the results of the race had mattered to me, this would have been a big mistake. This year however, I am planning to use cat 3 races in cyclocross as training only, as I really have no chance of finishing in the money. Had it been a significant race, my preparation for this would have been completely wrong. The Training Peaks blogs warn against this often. Pay attention to your form, don’t over do it, and don’t forget recovery.

Lessons Learned
The adverse effect of being “behind the curve” for Form showed itself to me today. There is no substitute for correct recovery. Yes I enjoyed riding today but I got a lot of “what happened? Are you sick?” type questions after the race.

Telling them “it was a recovery ride for me” got some weird and non-believing looks.

Really folks, I’m OK. Just over did it the past few weeks. As the Terminator says: “I’ll be back”.

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