Mar 22, 2011

Skiing and back to hard training

After a very light week and a weekend off the bike, it’s time to get back to some heavy duty training and racing. But before I get to that, I can’t not write about this past weekend and how absolutely epic it was.

About a month or so ago, I found out that a friend of mine was coming for her annual visit to San Francisco, from the far, far away land of St. Petersburg, Russia, and that a ski trip would be a great welcoming activity. So what was the first thing I did? If you guessed, looked at my race calendar, you’d be right. Wards Ferry was on the menu for Saturday the 19th, and I figured that’s a race I can really do without. Skiing it was.

I figured we’d be lucky with powder when I saw the weather forecast for the week ahead called for rain, rain and more rain, which nicely translates to snow at certain elevations. The downside of this is that Tahoe is sometimes a bitch to get to when chain control is out on I-80.  This time, however, it was a bit more complicated. Forty or so cars decided they would occupy the same physical space at the same time, which resulted in the highway getting shut down and many people having to spend the night in Colfax. After some deliberation, we decided to get some shut eye, get up at 4 and head out once the highway opened.

This turned out to be a perfect plan, as by 9:30 we were at Sugar Bowl. At some point during the drive, I looked at my phone and saw that Isaac tweeted that the Wards Ferry race was cancelled due to snow. On the one had, I was surprised as, it doesn’t go above 2200 feet and I didn’t expect that snow would be at that elevation that weekend. On the other hand, I was kind of happy I didn’t miss that race.

Now back to Sugar Bowl, and holy cow, I have never seen so much snow in my life. Just feet and feet of glorious powder with even more on the way. I’ve only been skiing for about 5 years, but people who’ve skied for decades were saying they’ve never seen anything like it. But that’s just the beginning of it. We woke up the next morning to news that Alpine was closed due to strong winds, the road to Sugar Bowl was closed due to snow and Homewood was letting anyone ski for just $25. So after some debate (which inevitably happens when you have 10 people trying to decide on one resort to ski), the economics and proximity won and we were headed to Homewood.

It’s a small resort with only a handful of lifts, but there weren’t many people there due to the weather and there was plenty of fresh snow to be tackled. By Sunday, it was so deep, that I couldn’t even make fresh lines with my skis (only 76 under the foot), but with some speed, it was possible. I did get stuck quite a few times, however, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as one guy I saw who was up to his armpits in snow and couldn’t get out. I had such a great time that this was the first time in a long time that I actually wanted to ski until the last lift. I really need to get me some powder skis for next year. 

Just to give you an idea of how much snow there was, here's one of my friends chasing another one of my friends through three feet of powder.

Now then, combing back to cycling. I have to say, I’m still holding a grudge against DST for taking away the early morning light. Hill repeats take a long time if you’re doing enough of them to make it count, and my work day isn’t really elastic. So what do I do when I need more time? I just wake up earlier. I don’t think I’ve ever gone up Conzelman when it was this dark out - no sight of dawn at 6:10 a.m. Descending down McCullough in pitch black darkness, even with a 400 lumen light, was quite an experience, too.

When I’ve done repeats in the past, I’ve usually done the same steady efforts on each repeat. This time, I decided to incorporate some of my indoor training to my outdoor training. For the first repeat, I aimed at 100 percent, building within the interval with the strongest push coming toward the end of the climb. For the second repeat, I did a 10-second stand at the end of each even minute, still attempting to arrive at 100 percent average watts at the end of the interval. I was close. I haven’t had the chance to look at my Golden Cheetah data, but I’m guessing some watts were lost in the standing/sitting transition and I’d like to tighten that up a bit so there is more of a flow, and I can just keep a more steady power output regardless of position.

The third interval was the same as the second one, except that I stood the last 10 seconds of every minute. The watts slipped a bit more, but not by a statistically significant amount, which makes me think that my assumption in the above paragraph was correct. But I’ll know more once I have a closer look at interval plot.

The fourth one was a real treat. It consisted of 90 seconds at about 90 percent, followed by 30 seconds standing at over 100 percent. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. This is the first time I’ve tried this on a hill and I have to say, I really like this set. It’s good practice for keeping something extra in reserve when you need to go on the attack, or counter the attack. Of course, as we (who race) know, sometimes keeping something in reserve is not really an option – all depends on who’s in the lead on the climb, I suppose.

The last set was a variation of the above, but consisted of two minutes at 85 percent followed by one minute at 100 to 115 percent, repeating three times, or until I got to the top.

Aside: I like this Strava widget thing, but the "There are no achievements on this ride" kind of bothers me. Maybe almost 4700 feet in 34 miles isn't much, but it's certainly some kind of an achievement. 

If you’ve never tried doing repeats this way, I’d strongly recommend it. It is definitely less monotonous than going up the same hill five times can be. It also helps you work on your technique of coming out of the saddle. Oh, and while I’m on the subject. For those who don’t know, if you’re riding in a peloton and are about to stand out of the saddle, it’s usually a good idea to throw your bike forward with your arms as you do it. Otherwise, Newton’s law kicks in and as you stand on your bike, the bike actually stalls or goes back slightly, which can take out the rear wheel of the rider behind you, and it could be your teammate. I’ll end this with those words of wisdom. 

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