Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Old La Honda: 3rd week in a row

Today was my third consecutive week of Old La Honda. So I moved the Powertap wheel to the Ritchey Breakaway and took that to work.

At the start, my legs felt fairly good. I'd ridden into work Tue morning (75 km) with some moderate intensity. On Monday I'd ridden a short ride with some brief efforts, mostly on the flats, partly to compare Vector to Powertap on the Winter Allaban. Sunday I'd done nothing. Saturday I'd done some steep hills, again to compare Vector to Powertap. So there'd been no really depleting rides in the bunch. If I had one thing against me my calories the previous day had been on the low side, considering I'd ridden in.

It was nice seeing my old friend Randy at the start. He'd been traveling and it was good hearing about that. Also there was Chris & Greg, two very fast climbers. Kieran wasn't there, nor was Mark.

This was to be the last Wed noon ride before the NCNCA championship race on Saturday, up the north face of Mount Diablo, approximately half-way to the junction. Still, despite being only half the total, it's a legitimate climb: 10 km and 530 meters vertical. It starts with a short climb, then a very brief descent, then after a brief climb out of that hole there's some gradual climbing until the real climbing begins at 2.2 km from the star. There's two brief recovery sections, one at 4.4 km, the next at 6 km, but the last 3.8 km holds a solid 6.7%. There's some undulation in there including two brief steep sections.

Anyway, the fast guys were feeling frisky and Chris and Greg went out at a full sprint. Randy briefly followed, but deja-vu with last week with Mark, he relatively quickly gave that up and was dangling in front of me. My start had been measured almost to the point of distress. My Powertap was telling me I was doing the right thing, but my legs didn't have that "this is so easy; surely I'm going too slow" feeling I have early in a climb when I ride it at an even pace.

Sure enough, I transitioned too soon from the "gotta keep the power down" mode to the "gotta keep the power up". Not good.

As I climbed, I watched my lap-average power in desparation as it ticked down from 278, 276.... taking an unfortunate dive down to 270 at one point where the grade levels out. I try to shift upshift at these points, but when I'm fading, it's tough.

I slowly closed the gap to Randy, finally reaching him at around 75%. I led for a bit, he stuck to my wheel, but then when we reached end game he went to the front and I followed as best I could. He slowed toward the finish and I pulled next to him so we finished very close in time, fortunately on the correct side of 19 minutes (18:51.6). But this was substantially slower than my 18:30 target.

Here's running average of power:


Final power was 270.7 watts. I'd hoped for 275 last week and got 274. This week I'd hoped for 278 and went the wrong way. Despite the inferior power I still managed to reduce my time. Apparently the headwinds from last week had subsided.

From the plot, it's clear, however, that my pacing was much better than last week, even if it didn't help. I managed to almost catch my fading schedule from last week at km 3, but then instead of sealing the deal, I faded even faster this week and fell 3+ watts short.

Here's watts versus distance for the 3 weeks, smoothed by 20 seconds:


This plot adds some context to the running average plot. Part of the issue was a slow start. Indeed, I started further back then I'd been doing, in part due to chatting with Randy leading into the climb, and that dug me into an immediate hole on average power. Once I got going, my power wasn't all that lower than it had been the previous two rides, and indeed I put in a rather high surge from kilometers 2 to 3 this time. There can be no advantage to "resting" at the beginning of the climb: a start at or even just below a final average is one thing, but more than 10% down and you're just digging yourself into a deficit from which you won't recover since rest at that point does absolutely no good. I need to be more wary about hitting the bridge close to threshold. In any case, I did not sustain the power as well as I would have liked.

Ah, well. It's a stacked field at Diablo. My goal: don't reverse podium. Finish ahead of the last 3. I will have the advantage of not having ridden as hard the two days before. But I can only do what I can do and given all of the other things going on right now I should just be happy to be doing the race.

On the plus side, after stopping for a Naked Juice at the store at the top of 84, I felt better the rest of the ride than I had the past two weeks (when I also stopped for juice at the store). So perhaps my endurance is improving, if not my power.


Brad said...

I would be interested in seeing your power graph and OLH time with you starting out at an average of 265-270 watts for the first 5 minutes, and then doing the rest based on feel. I have a feeling you would improve your time and fine it less painful.

djconnel said...


Good comment. Indeed my best times have been solo rides, not noon rides. A few things...

My PR (analyzed here) in 2011 involved a fast start. My previous PR 2 years prior (pre-Garmin, described here) was a more even pace.

I think the best of all is Low-Key Hillclimbs, because then you get the draft benefit with more groups from which to choose.

But additionally, I've gone into each of these last 2 noon rides with a target higher than I could attain. I've over-estimated my fitness. This year I came off a very solid running base, and that typically translates to good cycling fitness, especially with the Memorial Day ride giving me a very solid 4-day block of riding. But then a 4-day tour isn't like a 1 or 2 or 3 week tour, not even close, so it's not as if 350 miles in 4 days is going to give me instant wings. What I'm missing this year are any long weekend rides. And when I worked in Palo Alto, I'd typically follow OLH on Wed with another climb, sometimes even West Alpine. Now that I work in Mountain View that's not practical. So far less volume + every day another day older isn't a winning combination for hitting 2011 levels of power.

But long-winded... I agree these rides were not optimally paced for the fitness I have had.