Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cross Season Recap / Analysis

Coach BE ask that I do a recap of cross season for evaluation purposes. Here it is:

2005 Cyclocross Series

This 2005 Bike Authority Cyclocross series was a six race series held in November and December. I competed in all six races and ended up 2nd overall in the B series points and finished as high as 2nd in two races. In last race of series I was competing for first place right to the last corner, but it was not to be.

Overall, I am pretty pleased with how the cross series went. My strengths seem to be bike handling in sloppy conditions, long flat hard-packed sections and fast starts. My weaknesses were maintaining/increasing pace at the end of races, and long sections with really soft ground.

Bike handling in sloppy conditions – Probably as a result of my background in mountain bike racing and good bike set up (tires selection, air pressure, etc) I was able to avoid crashes (none) and ride technical sections as fast or faster than the competition. Often, I could ride these sections at slower pace (typically while following a competitor) and recover while doing so.
Long flat hard pack sections – I felt I was able to ride these types of sections faster than my competitors. This was particularly evident at the Copley course which seems to favor the “roadies” due to its long flat straight-aways. I think my body weight is less a factor, I may have more power than some of my competitors and I have probably done more road racing (particularly Westlake) than some of my competitors.
Fast Starts – It seemed that I was able to start very fast at each of the races. I was usually in the top three right from the gun and able to avoid getting caught up in traffic in the early going. The one time I got a slow start at the gun, I was able to quickly accelerate and pass 4-5 people before the field had strung out.

Maintaining/increasing pace at end of race – It seems that I was unable to hold a fast pace (or increase the pace) at the end of a 40-55 minute race. It seemed that my power decreased at the late stages of a race. This power loss seemed to be more prevalent if my cadence dropped below 80-85 (i.e. I was pushing a big gear) versus if I opted for a smaller gear and kept the cadence higher like in the 90-100 range. This power loss or fatigue is similar to some XC races I have done where each successive lap in a three lap race is 2-3 minutes slower as the race goes on (i.e. 42 min first lap; 44 min second lap and 46 min third lap).
Long sections with really soft ground – These sections bring out one of my real limiter which is climbing. Long sections with real soft ground are comparable to climbs in that there is significant resistance which impacts me due in part to my higher body weight. I raced during the series at anywhere from 182-186 with an average of 185. Anything more than 186 and I feel sluggish and heavy. Below 182 and I feel pretty good (all other things being equal). Also of note is that if there were shorter sections, or short hills, I was able to power through them, but the longer the hill or the soft ground section, the tougher for me to maintain speed. It seemed my worst performances were when there were a lot of turns and really soft ground. The race at Bay Village where I finished 6th was just these type of conditions. I think that some specific hill training and decreasing my body weight will really help get through these soft ground conditions.

General Health & Fitness
As far as ideal body weight, I am not sure. I am 5' 7 and currently weigh 182-185 lbs. When last tested about a year and a half ago my body fat at 185 was 13%. I was told at 175 I would be around 6-9% body fat. My health has been very good and I rarely get sick. In the last few years, the worst I have had was a cold and symptoms never lasted more than a couple days. I would like to have my body fat tested again and set a target weight for peak races and another target range for general purposes. I got as low as 178 during my peak Rugby years. I wrestled in high school and my senior year I played football at 165-170 and cut weight to 148 for wrestling. I have put on some muscle since then, so I am not sure if it would be prudent for me to get under 165-170. I probably had more upper body mass when I was playing rugby that I do today, not sure about legs.

Occasionally, I will get minor back stiffness during races. Generally it is not too bad. The last three races of the year, I did more stretching (some versus none) and I had no back issues. I’ll occasionally do push ups and sit-ups but not on a consistent basis.

Cross Training/Weight Training
I have not done much cross training in years past nor weight lifting. Given my body type, I get strength training anytime the road points up. The off road cycling seems to keep my upper body in decent shape, however, I recognize as I get older weight training may be necessary for maintaining strength. If I could be convinced that weight training would help my cycling, I would do it. I do like cross country skiing and have friends that are skiers and there are places close to me where I can ski (Shaker Lakes, Punderson, Chapin Forest). I used to run when I played rugby. Mostly 3-5 miles in distance at around 6-7 minutes per mile. I used to do track work as well, 100, 200 400 and 800s. Rugby (particular 7 a side) was a lot of sprinting. If I could be convinced that running would help my cycling I would do it. Running also might help take some weight off.

A combination of factors made the cyclocross series a success. I had pretty good fitness leading into the series, I had opportunity to sharpen my fitness with structured training with the help of a coach and my results were good. The last race of the series, despite less than optimal preparation, I was able to stay with the series winner for the whole race and nearly passed him in the last corner for the win. I think my experiences in the series and with my coach are a nice platform from which to build toward my 2006 goals and objectives.

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