ITT Provincial Championships – 2012
Brian Countryman and Stefan Schreiber.
Bruce Copeland (Master) beat all of us!
snapped by Stephen Paiano
Provincial Championships of the race of truth went down this past weekend. It was the flattest ITT course that has been raced for provincials in a number of years, much much flatter than ACME, and arguably flatter than when it was on the ring road in Calgary, and definitely flatter than the Canmore course. I don’t know the history long enough back before that to know which other courses have hosted provincials. We raced west from Graminia school near Devon with two 90 degree turned for about 19kms, pulled a 180 and returned him the same way. We had a light but consistent breeze from the south meaning we had a crosswind for the majority of the course. The road quality isn’t dangerous (i.e. potholes) but it is about as bumpy as a road gets where you can still call it paved. I had very sore hips following the race as a result of the pavement quality.
I hoped to average 360 watts which if well distributed should put me close to the win based on the field of guys who had signed up. I had been off the TT bike for the previous 3 weeks, which wasn’t what I had planned, but with work demanding some things of me on Tuesday nights which are my designated TT nights it was just how it was. In the end I managed 349 watts average with a normalized power of 352, indicating a variability of less than one percent! That doesn’t mean I executed perfectly though, I would say I made a fair number of mistakes.
Starting with the non-mistakes. I did recon the course the day before and was feeling familiar. I think I’ve ridden that road in excess of 10 times this season now so I knew how it all fit together. I loosened up with a walk first thing in the morning and ate a big but late breakfast timed for the start. I did my electrolyte loading protocol that I developed last year because it was supposed to be hot (it was, 30 degrees and sunny) and started my warmup at 45 minutes before the start. I warmed up a half hour including 5 minutes in the bottom of Z4 and then did another interval pushing towards the top of Z4 and lifting cadence which I’ve found is important to do so that my glutes loosen up and I can access good power around 125+ cadence. This is especially important for crit-racing warmup and probably less so for TT. I warmed up with an ice pack under my jersey to keep my core temperature from starting to rise prematurely and headed over to the start on time (never making that mistake again after the disaster in Banff).
If you look at my overall pacing from the above chart you can see a strong start, probably a bit too strong. I was relatively consistent though the first third dialed in to the 360 watt target, and showed a drop of nearly 10% between the halfway mark and the four fifths mark. That fade can be attributed a few things, a small overestimation of average power, rising core temperature, lack of practice in the back-half of long intervals and generally poor pain tolerance. The pain tolerance issue is partially driven by lack of specific practice this season. Most of my suffering in 2012 has been amongst other athletes, not on my own. This has been good for motivation during those training sessions but adversely affected my capability to motivate myself through the really intense moments of pain and the mental battle to stay attentive to the appropriate stimuli in this race. I was able to recruit a strong finish from myself… but it was actually probably too strong. I could have fared better through the second half overall if I could have started a mental push for the finishline from a bit further out. If I think of my best time-trials, the push for the finish started from between 2/3 and 3/4 of the way through the race, usually drawing mentally on the idea that I had an endurance card to play relative to most of my competition. I suppose if I ever did have that advantage I also had it in this race but I was preoccupied with pain management this time around. On Sunday I only had a finishing push from 88% of the way through to the finish, only half of the finishing kick that I’ve shown before.
The variability in speed over this course was minimal, the consistency of the course was sufficient that it would be very difficult to apply more power when moving slowly and less when moving quickly. The power distribution shown at right indicates that I wasn’t really able to execute any strategic power distribution at all. I think that’s mostly because it was pretty much impossible to do without more hills. Nothing was steep enough downhill to provide material rest so consequently there wasn’t really anywhere I could spend more power in exchange.
Upon closer examination of the power file there are three things that I saw happen. For each one I’m going to plot the power variability from what I should have been doing ‘on average’ at that point vs how much power I actually was doing. The ’should have’ is the white line from above, which already isn’t perfect but the factors affecting the overall pacing are generally separate from what I’m going to show here.
Setting out I did my best not to totally load up my legs from the start line and settled in quite well during the first 5kms. After negotiating the first two corners I was feeling into my groove and started to get a bit impatient because things were under control. This was where first mistake happened. I should have been content to sit at about 360 watts and wait for the pain to catch up with me, the race had barely begun. I should have noted that my heart-rate was already starting to get close to 180 bpm. Instead I just took note of my breathing which was totally controlled (as it should have been) and started to raise my game a little bit. Raising my game a little bit amounted to doing 800 meters at an average wattage 60 W higher than I should have been. Being worried that I wasn’t going hard enough I basically redlined for more than a minute. As a direct result of that stupidity I took my heart-rate across the 180bpm line, and loaded up my legs heavily with lactate. It took a subsequent kilometer averaging 40-50 watts below target to get that lactate to clear. I’m lucky that I’ve been working on lactate clearance because if I hadn’t that could have effectively been the end of my race. It wasn’t, but it put me firmly into discomfort a lot earlier along the way than I should have been. From that point to the turnaround I had to start employing all of the motivation that I could find to stay focused. Normally I don’t have to start into my reserve of pain-tolerance that until halfway.
Following the U-turn this plot basically show some incredible variability. I am not doing many prolonged surges above or below my target watts but it shows that I’m having a hard time getting it right. I’ll do a half dozen pedal strokes hard and almost immediately back off the throttle because it is killing my legs. The whole section is done with minimal shifting of the gears but this is a real section of muscle-protest and it’s clear from the profile that I’m incapable of calming myself down and just doing what it takes. Riding smart and distributing my power through this section would spare the legs from a lot more pain that’s going to develop soon (next plot) but I just wasn’t able to do it. The result is me not getting as much speed out of the power that I am putting into the road as I should have been because I couldn’t stay calm to do it. I distinctly remember feeling like things were on the edge of falling apart when I couldn’t sustain a feeling of ‘push’. I was lucky to have a 30 second power displayed on my Garmin, because it kept me in the game, confirming that I was doing alright and that I hadn’t blown apart yet which was consoling.
The final case study comes basically immediately before I start to make a final drive for the finishline. What I can see in the power profile here is a succession of spots where I lift my power output up and then gradually it fades off again. This is indicative of an argument between my head and my body, where I am consistently asking myself to pick it up a little bit and then fading back again. Unlike the previous plot, I’m no longer able to keep the average power up. I’m fading and getting mad or frustrated with my legs and starting to push them again briefly. These are little periods of pushing myself too hard and fading back relatively gradually. There’s quite a bit of acceleration and deceleration going on here. I’m shifting gears quite a bit to try and find a cadence where I can generate power but I’m not finding anything that I can manage to settle on, pretty much everything hurts at this point and the finishline still seems a long ways away.
These things are hard to get!