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Decision Time

Old 07-12-16, 03:21 PM
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F16F22
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Decision Time

Ran headlong into reality this weekend and man, did it hurt. Going to leave a mark too… Dropped after 9 minutes of a 45 minute crit, pulled after 20 when the field lapped me. Got one more race planned this year (besidesTT’s) and then this Fall and Winter will be spent in deep contemplation about my racing future. Never make a decision when you’re emotional, and right now I’m pretty raw.

Even though the course doesn’t suit me (eight 90-deg turns) I signed up for the Indy crit in downtown Indianapolis Saturday for two reasons. One, I had a rare chance to race both my age and category (they have a 50+ Cat 4/5 race this year) and because videos of previous years show that the turns are fast and wide, meaning you can pedal through all of them even at speed with minimal accordion effect. I’m still working on fighting for and keeping position toward the front and the constant slow-down/speed up of most crits just kills me.

I lined up mid-field in the 53-man pack for the start, but after they called up the first 20 pre-regs I was left standing in the last row. Doh! Plenty of opportunities to move up after the start though. But when the gun went off I got caught behind “can’t-clip-in” guy who decided to stop pedaling completely and I was immediately gapped. Several matches burnt there.

The pace was fast, and the corners as advertised. I was able to make up a few spots by going around the outside of turn eight but for most of my short race even though I could see opportunities to move up I didn’t have the legs or lung capacity to do anything about it. There was a 10-man crash about 5 minutes into the race as the guys on the front led the field right over the one man-hole cover on the course that was not flush with the road surface. I didn’t see it, but it most likely twisted someone’s front wheel, or threw their hands off the bars, and down they went. That made me burn a few matches to get back on, but after 9 minutes of what felt like all-out sprinting I was off the back. Twice I tried to sit on the wheel of fellow stragglers but couldn’t even do that and as the field was bearing down on me at the 20 minute mark the officials pulled me out.

The good news is that I know exactly what my problem is; I’m not in good enough shape. In order to just survive a flat non-technical crit, I’ve learned I need 7-8 hours a week, and this season I'm averaging maybe 5.5 since January. I do not have a solid base of aerobic conditioning to carry me and no amount of wind management is going to make up for it.

So, I’ve got some thinking to do. I figure I can:
  1. Quit racing
  2. Get used to driving 2 hours each way and paying 40 bucks for 9 minutes of racing
  3. Make time to train more.
“1” would really suck. I’d probably quit riding my bike if I couldn’t race. I’m not the type who can just go tool around on the bike for no reason. Plus, I really enjoy being part of something unique and feeling like an athlete again. Having something like that is important to me.

I don’t want “2”, but it may be reality. I have come to accept that I’ll never accumulate any points toward an upgrade to Cat 3, but I’d at least like to finish the flat races still in sight of the main field.

So, “3” it is for now. I’ve got four weeks to try to find some fitness before the final race ofthe season. I finished with the field there last year and I think 4 weeks is enough to get me back to that point again. I know what I need to do to train, just have to get after it.

One of y’all posted here on Bike Forums something like “Normal people have no idea how hard you have to work to be a mediocre bike racer”. My wife, who is a normal person, said to me when I told her about this weekend’s fiasco “I don’t understand this whole racing thing. How can you do so poorly when you work so hard?” I chuckled and quoted the above line, telling her “I don’t train nearly as hard as I think I do. 6 hours a week isn’t hard. It’s not even barely enough”.

But saying that and knowing it in your heart and head are two completely different things. This week brought it all home. Next step is to see if I want to do what it takes to fix it. I think maybe I do.
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Old 07-12-16, 08:41 PM
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Four weeks isn't much time to make any real changes in fitness. I think it would make sense to try to carve out more training time and get in that habit now. But it's just not realistic to think that in & of itself is going to have a big impact on your racing, and having realistic expectations is probably one of the most important things in bike racing.

You might be better off to set some other goals for this season- maybe focus on tactics or just exposure to the racing environment or pacing the TTs well.

Then figure out how you're going to make it work for next season- how you'll get the training in. I'm not sure what limits your ability to put in the time, but realistically you need to solve it if you're going to race. Never miss a workout, unless you're sick or physically limited in some way. Just form that habit, I actually find it useful to decide in advance that whatever is on my schedule, that's what I want to do.

Maybe others here will have more specific advice. But I like to start with getting my head in the right place.
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Old 07-12-16, 10:15 PM
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I'm not sure whether this was your first crit?

In any case you underestimate the skills (cornering, drafting, positioning) involved. You're a noob; give yourself some slack. I'm sure the next time around you'll do better. If, in your first race, you didn't get an ass whooping, they probably ought to change the name of the sport to yoga.

This sport doles out whoopings quite liberally. All reasonable people are quickly turned away. Those with unreasonable amounts of perseverance stick around, get faster, and learn to be the doler of whoopings rather than the dolee.
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Old 07-13-16, 06:20 AM
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Thanks for the words, I think I just need to step back and gain a little perspective. This is my fourth full season racing and I get maybe 10 - 15 races each year, equally split between road/crits/TTs. I'm just in the middle of a bad year, everybody has them.
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Old 07-13-16, 09:32 AM
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Usually when people say they aren't training enough it just means they aren't training right, but under 6 hours a week is really just not enough unless you are way more focused than I'll ever be. There's a big difference between 5.5 hours a week and 8.
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Old 07-13-16, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by F16F22
Thanks for the words, I think I just need to step back and gain a little perspective. This is my fourth full season racing and I get maybe 10 - 15 races each year, equally split between road/crits/TTs. I'm just in the middle of a bad year, everybody has them.
It took me about 4 years of training, the last couple coached, very disciplined, and typically 10-12 hours per week, before I was one of the stronger cat 4's. I think naturally gifted people, naturally skinny people, and people with backgrounds in endurance sports, often move up much more quickly.

There are also a good proportion - maybe 50% - who are lifers in cat 4. I believe this is more due to habit, discipline, and/or commitment, rather than capability or genetics. And, by the way, there's nothing wrong with that...in fact it may be a healthier balance (unless your name is Sagan or Froomey; this is a hobby and not a livelihood).
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Old 07-13-16, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Heathpack
Never miss a workout, unless you're sick or physically limited in some way.
I believe that single item that has had the biggest impact on my bike racing success (in 2015, I didn't miss a workout for 6 months). More importantly, this habit changed my personal outlook from "Sunday driver" to "athlete".
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Old 07-13-16, 02:58 PM
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An eight corner crit is technically challenging. Not exactly beginner material. You got in those situations not because of fitness but because of lack of experience. You should not have lost more than one second behind Mr. Clip In. You should have anticipated the crash on the manhole by positioning yourself to avoid it, every lap. The lack of fitness kept you from overcoming your tactical weaknesses, which got you pulled.

I would focus on two things. Practice your starts and work on your race awareness. I'd spend the next three weeks doing over unders to build your recovery at the last minute. Other than that there isn't a lot that you can do.
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Old 07-13-16, 07:25 PM
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Thank you, will do. I'm not unrealistic: all I'm expecting at my next race is to do better with four good 8 hour weeks than I would with four more 5 hour weeks.
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Old 07-13-16, 08:13 PM
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My opinion? Enjoy what you can this season, but work towards next season. You aren't going to get the fitness you need in a month, or even two months. Go race, for sure, but plan towards next year. You'll be in better form, and you'll continue to build over the whole season.
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Old 07-15-16, 11:40 AM
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@F16F22 FWIW you can get a lot done in 6 hours a week, but as @globecanvas noted, you have to be disciplined and have a fine tuned program. I've podiumed nats on 6-8 hour weeks. And that was in the TT.

The fallacy of "aerobic base/FTP" has people training poorly for the events they end up doing in a lot of cases. I put this out there in a post in the "33" about crit racing and heart rate: speed kills. Not a solid 20m effort.

If I was doing crits and had 5.5 hours a week you can bet that 3 hours of that would be flogging myself with recovery from effort intervals and 0-1 minute stuff. That goes a long way into keeping you in the game. 2 hours sitting in on a group ride...there are better uses of your time.

And I'd keep racing. Last year I won a crit less than two months after spine surgery, in a two man break. My "training" for all but two weeks prior were 2-3 mile walks. What got me to the flyer and in the break was a one minute effort, what kept me in there and other races where I had poor fitness was race craft. Know how much you can give, and limit it to that. Know the course and the wind and position accordingly.

Racing improves tactics if you take the time to figure out where you had problems and try to develop band aids. It's a sum total of little things. Save every bit of energy by hiding well. Keep your eyes up the road and you can see those crashes coming and avoid them, as well as anticipating surges and not having to close gaps. If you're on the brakes much you're throwing away bits of matches or whole matches. How many times did you hit them in that race? Instead use your momentum to carry you up field, then hold your position.

Think of lack of training as a good excuse to ride sneaky
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Old 07-15-16, 04:25 PM
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All the above is why I always come back to the Master forum and read every post.

Depth of expert knowledge given freely!

And a great bunch of people.
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Old 07-16-16, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex
The fallacy of "aerobic base/FTP" has people training poorly for the events they end up doing in a lot of cases. I put this out there in a post in the "33" about crit racing and heart rate: speed kills. Not a solid 20m effort.
Can't overemphasize this enough. Intensity rules. Kills me to see 90% of guys doing the crit scene with training programs based either directly or indirectly off of pro tour riders, focused almost solely on FTP. Get them to burn two matches and most of them are done for the day. Then they wonder why guys wtih 15% lower FTP are stomping them in crits.
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Old 08-02-16, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by F16F22
Thank you, will do. I'm not unrealistic: all I'm expecting at my next race is to do better with four good 8 hour weeks than I would with four more 5 hour weeks.

Bike racing is tough--- at least a recreational runner who finishes a 10k in a blistering 50 minutes or so gets a t shirt, a finishers pin and a healthy dose of applause at the finish-

If we get gapped and lapped we either slink back to the car and drive home, or prepare to go out there with the next class we are signed up for and get our heads pounded in again --- must feel like what a Detroit Lions football player goes through every Sunday in the fall.

Family, friends and relatives will not understand, but it gets better
5 hours is not ideal but i think you could put together an acceptable criterium regimen with that time- as one of the other posters wrote, spend a couple of days on recovery, and a couple flogging it hard
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Old 07-07-17, 03:41 PM
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I used to race kermesses and money kept me motivated. Then, after retiring, I switched to masters road and crit in the states. When I was able to train constantly, I raced constantly, and finished well constantly. When training opportunities fell off due to work all the latter did as well. That plus a couple nasty crashes mad it less and less fun. But I still wanted the racing fix so I switched to cyclocross. Reason being, though it is the hardest work I've done in a while, the battle for 20th place is as fun as the battle for 1st. Plus, the spills are usually comical, not life/career/equipment threatening. And getting covered in mud on a bike is just plain fun. I know it's not a pure solution, but maybe one to consider? Now that I'm done with crits I look back and wonder if all the risk and stress was worth it.

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Old 07-07-17, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by LottoAdecco02
I still wanted the racing fix so I switched to cyclocross.... I know it's not a pure solution, but maybe one to consider? Now that I'm done with crits I look back and wonder if all the risk and stress was worth it.
It's funny but I gave cyclocross a try a couple of times and just did not enjoy it at all, despite winning a race or two. Much rather ride my MTB if there's dirt involved, full suspension and a competent bike are much nicer to my held together with bailing wire body. With that I only do the rare MTB race, I have a lot more fun just tooling around the woods or riding with friends.

For the most part I love crits and don't really stress doing them. I kind find that eye of the storm thing, much as I did in the points race at Nats. Massive knock wood but I've only hit the deck once in a crit and that was over a decade ago.

Different things resonate with different people at different times in their lives. The "right" answer is go have fun.
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Old 07-12-17, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by sarals
My opinion? Enjoy what you can this season, but work towards next season. You aren't going to get the fitness you need in a month, or even two months. Go race, for sure, but plan towards next year. You'll be in better form, and you'll continue to build over the whole season.
My exact plan...
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