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2021 OtH #4-8, Season Wrap-Up

2021 OtH #4-8, Season Wrap-Up

Races 4-8 were a steady progression of feeling stronger & getting better results. Each week I did better & better, climbing from 18th to 13th, which is great. I only placed 16th overall, but that's to be expected when I spent the middle of the series finishing around 20th each week.

8 individual races kind of blur together, but I did learn plenty during this time.

Initially, I was soft-pedaling into spots where I knew there would be an accordion effect, thinking that I was saving energy. "We're all gonna be wheel-to-wheel in a second anyway," I'd think. And then three riders would dive in ahead of me, which would hold me up and/or push me off the fast line, and I'd come out the other end of the accordion having surrendered 5 positions.

In later races, I reframed the typical rhythm of open trail punctuated by tight turns or bottlenecks. I relized that in a 40- to 60-minute race, it's a sprint from start to finish. Saving energy is nice, but you've gotta do it opportunistically rather than tactically.

Meaning: if someone is going a little faster than you, and you can draft, then draft. But it's almost never a good call to draft behind someone slower than you in hopes of "resting" or "recovering".

I worked on my cornering, and discovered that (possibly because of the current state of my skills) I'm far smoother carrying speed through corners if I stand.

And I found that I can totally stand & power up climbs & pass people, and that this works much better for me than trying to sit & spin.

Between standing for power and standing through corners, my approach to most of this race completely changed. I'd brake late, carry speed through the corner (leaning the bike as much as possible for more grip), then stay standing & power out, rinse & repeat.

And honestly, I think pushing myself each week did great things for my fitness. Not only was I performing better each week, I felt better after the race.

I haven't seen my heart rate hit 185 BPM in a long time, but it did duringing these races.

Take-Aways

Most of what I learned from the 2019 Over the Hump series served me well. A few additions:

Pass when you can: the twists & turns of this race offer little windows where passing is possible. Make the most of those opportunities. Pass, then use the course to defend your position & recoup for a few seconds, then go again.

Foam rolling: foam rolling is amazing and completely eliminated any need for Sudafed/NyQuil after races. Never even thought to reach for them.

Base layer: I have a few sleeveless base layer tops, and I'm now religious about wearing them. Even on the hottest days on the race course, I felt like my sweat was actually cooling me rather than just dripping off or evaporating uselessly.

Bike fit: after getting frustrated with lingering saddle sores, I got a fit from Bosco Bike Fits, and it was money well spent. My sores disappeared as if they never existed, and have not returned.

Roctane Recovery Mix: It's not cheap, but I really do love it. Fantastic recharge after hard workouts. I ran out during the last couple of races, and replaced it with a simple mix of protein powder, milk, and chocolate syrup, and that seemed to get the job done well enough.

OtH #5 (Intermediate, 40-49): 17th

OtH #6 (Intermediate, 40-49): 16th

OtH #7 (Intermediate, 40-49): 15th

OtH #8 (Intermediate, 40-49): 13th

Starting My 2022 Strength Build

The 2021 Over the Hump series wrapped up on Tuesday evening, and I'll for sure have more to say about how that went.

For now, though, I want to document my starting numbers for my next training block.

The general plan is to spend the next few months with the following priorities:

  1. get leaner
  2. get stronger
  3. don't lose on-bike fitness

Current Measurements

The only metric here that I have any kind of goal for is my weight. I'm clearly currently carrying more fat than I need to, and some rough calculations indicate that getting down around 15% body fat would put me right around 180#. So that's what I'm aiming for.

However.

If I arrive in February 2022 leaner & stronger, but weighing above 180#, that's absolutely not any kind of failure. That's why I take my other starting measurements, so that I can put my weight in context. If my weight holds steady, but my waist goes down and my thighs & hips get bigger, that's a win.

weight 192.2#
calf 16''
thigh 25''
hips 41''
waist 39.5''
chest 41''
biceps 15.5''

Strength Goals (5x5 max)

Some of these goals are within reach over the next few months. Some are... not. But I'm noting my "big picture" goal here, and I'll see how close I can get.

Movement Current Goal
squat 215# 250#
deadlift 225# 295#
bench press TBD 195#
chin-up 1 rep 15 reps
military press 65# 110#

More on how the second half of the Over the Hump series went is on the way, and I'll be noting progress on my strength build periodically.

2021 OtH #2-4 (Intermediate, 40-49)

2021 OtH #2-4 (Intermediate, 40-49)

Every movie has a moment where the characters are introduced, the central plot is established, and everything after that proceeds from what we already know. (A few twists & turns aside.) It's the end of the beginning.

I kind of feel like Race #4 was that moment for the 2021 Over the Hump race season. Everyone's been moved to their proper divisions, consistent winners have established themselves, and now we're all just racing for incremental week-over-week improvement.

I took 9th in my first race, which felt like a good start, but then finished 12th & 22nd in the next 2 races. That prompted some re-evaluation of my goals and some investigation into how I slid 12 places in 15 days. The nutshell: a bunch of stronger riders either showed up, or moved into Intermediate from other divisions.

So, rather than looking at results, I looked at my time relative to a rider who consistently finishes in the top 3 to get a sense of how I was doing.

In the first race, I finished ~1:30 behind him. In the second, I was ~3:30 back. In the third, I was a miserable 4:40 off the pace.

So, both things are true:

  • Riders stronger than me have joined my class
  • I wasn't racing as well week-over-week.

After race #3, I had a couple of take-aways.

It is immensely clear that my trail skills have atrophied. I'm not nearly as comfortable on trails as I used to be, especially if they're loose. During races, I can feel the extra effort taking its toll.

The little, punchy climbs that litter the OtH courses were killing me. I needed to get used to holding pace while periodically pushing over short rises.

I'd also been following my TrainerRoad training plan, which prescribed mostly rest between races, with an "openers" workout the day before each race. I wondered how doing actual training between races would affect my performance. (Both in terms of race results, and whether I'd improve week-to-week.)

So before race #4, I did some training rides during the week, and moved them from power-based interval workouts done mostly on flats to more race-specific stuff on trails.

And honestly, that seemed to help a bit. For Race #4, I was much better able to deal with the short rises.

Race #4 was honestly pretty uneventful. I was able to match my PR on the back lot climb, which makes me happy, and I felt like I improved the way I'm riding the first ~10 minutes of the race: didn't overcook the start, maintained position well, and got onto the flats with my HR at ~165 BPM, which is exactly where I want to be.

I fumbled at least one place right at the end by not following through over the top of the final climb. I had a gap on the rider behind me, and I'd have kept it if I just pushed for another 5 seconds & gotten up to speed heading into the final 2:00 of the race. I got passed with ~1:00 left to go, and that's entirely my own doing. I did manage to barely hold off an attempt to get past me right at the line.

So, 4 races in, it's clear I've gotta work on three things, and they're not subtle.

First, I need to work on my cornering. I'm just bleeding time on every single corner, and I absolutely hate my lack of confidence in the turns. It's costing me time and fun.

Second, I'm going to do some YouTube research and see how faster, more experienced racers deal with short rises. (~5 seconds) There's a definite art to carrying momentum & using minimal energy to maintain/regain speed.

And third, I simply have to get faster. When I was 1:25 off the lead, I felt like better skills & tactics might close the gap. But I'm 4:00+ back now, and that's down to my legs.

And finally, I have to accept that if I'm going to win in Intermediate, let alone move up to Sport & be competitive there, I'm going to have to get leaner. So I'm working on that.

OtH #2 (Intermediate, 40-49): 12th

OtH #3 (Intermediate, 40-49): 22nd

OtH #4 (Intermediate, 40-49): 18th

Over the Hump #1: 9th (Intermediate, 40-49)

After nearly two years, the Over the Hump Tuesday-night races are back on the calendar. Instead of two six-week blocks with a hiatus in between, it's a single eight-week series. I'd love to see more racing, and a longer season, but after 22 months of waiting, I'll take what I can get.

My goals were super-simple: stay with the leaders as long as I could, and race smart. I've been watching a lot race tactics videos on YouTube this year, so I like to think I'm a smarter racer than I was two years ago.

Because of some delays at the venue, organizers shortened the race from three laps to two, which I was slightly bummed about. The last lap is usually where I'm able to pick up a few places. And a short race means a brutal pace I wasn't sure I could hang with.

I got off the line clean, and everyone seemed to take their time getting up to speed. I was with the leaders into the first turn, and felt really solid. As we crested the top of the hill & headed down to the road along Irvine Lake, gaps were forming and I was crosseyed, but I had the leaders in sight & felt okay about my position.

I did my best to breathe & conserve energy on the flats, but the pace was still super-high, and as we came through the park & onto the "back 40" section, I'd been gapped pretty good. I figured with just two laps in the race this was the best time to do whatever passing I was going to manage, and started to work my way up through the traffic.

It was amazing to push along the flats solo at 280W, then tuck in behind someone and watch that number drop to 170W without losing any speed.

The flat finished with that hard left up the nose & into the CX section. I decided not to burn my matches there, and I feel like that's the smart move there. It's maybe a 30-second climb, so going into the red just gains you maybe 5 seconds, which can be made up with minimal fuss later.

My trail skills are rusty after so much fire road riding in my training, and the course was really loose & dusty. So I feel like the back section took more out of me than it should have. (Or at least, more than it used to.)

I headed into lap 2 with no clue what position I was in. I just tried to remind myself that there was no point saving any matches, and that I really had maybe 15 minutes of racing left.

I managed to pick up a place coming through the park, and as I headed into the "Back 40", I spotted a huge train motoring along about 40m ahead. I've learned my lesson from so many crit videos, and I know that I've gotta catch that.

So catch it I did. I kept myself just shy of redlining, but managed to join the back of that train & get into that sweet, sweet suction. I took a minute to rest, but realized that I had one competitor just ahead, and another behind.

The train started to split apart, so I jumped on my competitor's wheel & went with him for the rest of the flat section. A glance back showed a nice gap, so I stopped looking for the guy behind, and just focused on moving up.

The guy I was following attacked up the nose climb, and I just couldn't go. I hoped that if I could stay in striking distance I could make up the time later in the lap, but after that he was gone.

I had a nice gap after the final climb, but didn't want to take that for granted. And I'm glad I didn't. A guy in my division wearing all black managed to sneak up & passed me going into the second-to-last corner. Very fortunately, there was a guy in another division just ahead of us and we all hit that corner at the same time. Mr. All-Black was forced to go outside of the other guy, but I had space to pull inside & get past them both. I spun up the hill as fast as I could & held on for 9th place.

(My GPS says I hit 130+ RPM there, which seems unlikely, but matches my experience at the time of just spinning as fast as I could.)

I had high hopes for this race. I spent several months at the beginning of 2020 building muscle, and I've been pushing hard on the bike to build my fitness.

Unfortunately, it looks like I've mostly just maintained, rather than improved. That's... disappointing.

On the other hand, I'll get to do eight races this year instead of just four back in 2019, and I improved significantly during those four races back then. I'm hoping I can do likewise this year.

So, goals for next week:

  • start harder- stay with the leaders. I'm not 100% convinced this will get me my best possible results, but I really do feel like at this race the top finishers pull away quickly & stay away.
  • more burning matches, more coasting. I spent a lot of time just above FTP, and that meant I had nothing when I needed to push harder. I want to see what happens when I, for example, start hard, then coast & draft along the flats, then attack up the nose, then recover in the CX section, then attack up the longer climb, then coast through the start/finish, etc. Might be a terrible idea. Dunno. I want to find out.

OtH #1 (Intermediate, 40-49): 9th

Training Update: Upgrades & Saddle Sores

Training Update: Upgrades & Saddle Sores

Upgrades!

First, I got a Stages left-crank power meter for my mountain bike. The change has been phenomenal. Instant feedback on technique means I'm really focusing on getting faster rather than just building aerobic capacity as a proxy for power output.

That set the stage for joining TrainerRoad's training program. So far, that's been awesome. I'm clearly getting much stronger & faster, and I like the variety it provides over something like Time-Crunched Training Protocol.

And I've upgraded GPS unit, replacing my old Garmin Edge 500 with a new Edge 130 Plus. Wireless sync has been awesome, and the screen is so much clearer. Both units support structured workout downloads from TrainierRoad, but the workout screen on the 130 Plus is so much better than what's available on the 500.

I also decided to try using a base layer just for grins, and I'll never go back to just a jersey. I'm using a Pearl Izumi sleeveless mesh base layer, and it keeps the chilly days from being too chilly, and noticeably helps make hot days manageable as well.

Saddle Sores

I've never had trouble with saddles before this year. But now... I do.

I suspect that the biggest reason is that I've been doing much more training (indeed, most of my training) on flat fire roads along the Santa Anna River Trail. On trails (where I did most of my riding until now), there's much more weighting & unweighting the saddle, shifting positions, etc.

Whatever the reason, saddle sores have been a persistent problem for me for the last few months. So far, I've been lucky. They haven't caused any disruption in my training or gotten beyond merely annoying. But they're not going away, and I want to get that resolved before it becomes a real problem.

On the calendar, the next two weeks are rest & prep for a race in Big Bear followed by a recovery week. So the plan is already calling for very little time on the bike with lots of rest, and workouts to maintain fitness rather than build it.

I won't be doing the Big Bear race, so I'm going to take advantage of that low volume to get some extra rest & minimize my time in the saddle. I'm hoping that doing just 2-3hrs over the next couple of weeks will let my sores heal completely.

I've also ordered a new seatpost that will give me more fine-tuned tilt & setback options, and I have a new saddle with a slightly wider body & more padding that I hope will help spread some of the pressure & minimize hip rocking.

And finally, once I'm healed I'm going to book a bike fit at Bosco Bike Fits to get my bike fit nailed down properly. I've never had a proper bike fit, and I like to think that if I had, I'd wouldn't be dealing with this now.

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