Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Race power file analysis

Sunday’s regional race was a fast, hot and hard race. The course involved a mix of wide climbs, technical climbs and two key twisty descents. I was pleased to see the quality of the field on the start line with, among others, one of the best rider in the country who also races UCI world cups. We were starting with the juniors, which only brings more pain and speed to the experience. The race would not be easy; heat, humidity, fast guys, hard course and on top of that, a very hard race in the legs from Saturday. Nevertheless, it would be an awesome training and experience.

I dissected the whole race by laps (5) and analysed the datas for each key parts of the course where I could lay down the power. I will comment the first two laps as they were the critical parts of the race.

-Climb 1: approximately 2 minutes long and divided in two: a roughly 20 seconds, hard packed wide road leading to the second part of the climb which was a 90 seconds ascending singletrack with twisting sections and a few roots to clear.

-Flat: a wide, flat stretch of hard packed sand which leads in a slightly ascending singletrack. We had to make a 90 degree left turn at the end of the wide road to enter the singletrack.

-Climb 2: around 1 minute long, this climb was right after a technical rocky section. It was muddy, a little slippery and finished off with a wide gravel path where you could regain some speed before entering the wood toward the last climb.

-Climb 3: around 1 minute long as well. This climb was a semi-loose sand climb which lead to another short punchy climb before tackling the final descent.

Here is the analysis.

Final time: 1h17m32s
kJ: 1099
Normalized Power: 294W

Lap 1: 15m30s
NP: 312W

Climb 1 : 1m50s / 385W AP / 857W max

Flat :  2m10s / 327 AP / 717W max

Climb 2 : 1m / 399w AP / 644W max

Climb 3 : 50s / 461W AP / 633W max

First lap involved a start loop to avoid a tight singletrack. The loop lead at the base of Climb 1. Another poor start for me but no biggie here as I was drafting off other riders on the flat and put the hammer down on the climb to enter the wood with a good position. That surge did have its cost with a max wattage of 857W to past other riders and averaging 385W for almost 2 minutes on the climb. I was on the wheels of the leaders but we got droped on the descent and I then stuck with 2 other riders, a junior and an elite. Once on the flat I had to put the hammer down peaking at 717W to catch the junior and the elite who took a little gap on the descent. I could see them at the base of climb 2 and I passed the junior, again, burning some fuel with a peak wattage of 644W and averaging close to 400W for a minute. I could reach the elite rider and draft him on the rolling part of the course leading to climb 3. At the base of climb 3, I just put the hammer down again, averaging 461W for 50 seconds and got rid of both guys, but not for long…

Lap 2: 15m17s
NP: 302W

Climb 1: 1m45s 397W AP 924W max PEAK 10s 823W PEAK 20s 707W

Flat: 2m10s 324W AP

Climb 2: 1m05s 355W AP

Climb 3: 59s 415W AP

I started the final descent with a small gap  and both guys caught me back at the base of the descent leading to the lap zone. I slowed a little and rode the first singletrack section at tempo pace leading to climb 1, as I knew it would be hell at the bottom of the climb. Got out of the wood first and started the climb at a pretty high pace between 600-650W but the elite rider attacked as he wanted to enter the second part of the climb with a good position. I responded to the attack with a peak wattage of 924W, peak 10 seconds of 823W and peak 20 seconds of 707W. I could keep my position but I entered the second part of the climb in the wood redlining big time. Finished the climb at a good pace nevertheless with an average power of 397W for 1 minute 45 seconds and started the descent. The rest of the race was ridden with the junior getting close to me on descents and me taking gaps on every climbs. It was an awesome race, pretty hard with an interesting tactical game played in the first two laps.

Here are the other laps datas.

Lap 3: 15m43s
NP 283W

Climb 1: 1m49s 373W AP 675W max

Flat: 2m17s 290W AP

Climb 2: 1m07s 352W AP

Climb 3: 55s 404W AP

Lap 4:  15m47s
NP: 287W

Climb 1: 1m50s 371W AP

Flat: 2m15s 289W AP

Climb 2: 1m10s 345W AP

Climb 3: 51s 422W AP


Lap 5: 15m11s
NP: 280W

Climb 1: 1m54s 349W AP

Flat: 2m19s 289W AP

Climb 2: 1m13s 338W AP

Climb 3: 55s 394W AP

Overall I was pleased with the result (2nd). The training was very good, both for the skills and fitness! Looking forward to my first provincial test next week-end, most likely in muddy conditions, for a change…

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Racing and recovery

Racing is hard, very hard. Especially olympic cross-country mountain biking. It is often 90 minutes of intense pain starting right from the gun and barely easing up as the race unfolds. The start is brutal, the hills are pure hell, any small obstacle often requires a 3-5 seconds power burst and the descents are anything but recovery time. Add the huge concentration requirement and you end up quite toasted on the finish line.

Power demand

After reviewing my first two races power data, I can briefly summarize the physiological demand of XCO MTB racing. Keep in mind those two races were relatively short, being regional level races, lasting arround 75 minutes each.

First race normalized power was 285 W and totalized 14 minutes above 120% of FTP and 8 minutes between 105% and 120% while second race normalized power was 299 W and totalized 19 minutes and 8 minutes for each respective training levels. That makes it 22 minutes and 27 minutes of very high intensity work for each race. The cumulative time above 120% of FTP is made of several short acceleration lasting anywhere between 5 seconds to 1 minute. Some people would call those short efforts anaerobic but I would venture saying they are not, maybe except for the start. Why? Because almost all these short intense efforts are produced in an already fatigued state where aerobic energy production is already doing it's work. Therefore, I would think they are far from purely anaerobic and would involve a significant aerobic energy contribution. Such high intensity efforts require a good deal of glycogen and stores can be rapidly used.

Then you have the whole muscular contractions when descending, clearing obstacle and handling the bike that are not reported by the powermeter... what a sport!!

Recovery from racing

The significant systemic stress induced by MTB racing requires smart recovery strategies, both on the short, medium and long term within racing season. That's without speaking of the stress induced by traveling to races, sleeping in crapy hotels and eating average food.

On the short term, I must make sure I get proper post-race nutrition which means and good amount of carbohydrates combined with proteins. I often go for the classic chocolate milk or anything liquid containing 4g/1g carbs to proteins ratio. I keep fueling with carbohydrate dense food on the way home. Then I make sure I get a good meal once I am back. On the medium term, I need to get sufficiant sleep quality and quantity. For me, it generally means 8 hours of sleep following steady bed time hours and wake up. Sleep is esential to adequate recovery to allow adaptations from racing intensity, since racing is pretty much the only real training I am doing at the moment. Finaly, on the long term, the recovery strategy needs to be consitant throughout the season. Sufficient nutrition quality and quantity, sleep and training load must be scaled according to the racing demand.

Training plan orientations

Training, for me, is all about being is race shape when comes racing time. Lots of efforts from november to april, then racing. Once racing starts, structured training frequency drops quite a bit. I go from 2-3 hard workouts a week to 2, then only 1 and even no intense workout at all when racing frequently like I am right now. Racing frequently means once to three times a week. It's more then enough when you consider the physiological demand of XCO MTB racing as explained above. The more I am racing, the more I am convinced week days should mainly consist of low intensity, zone 2 riding working on skills and trail riding, which can also provide some shorter higher intensity time. Easy rides on the road coupled with zone 2 trail riding should provide adequate recovery without inducing additionnal training stress as long as duration and intensity are controled. When the racign eases a bit after june, we'll see if I schedule a very gentle build to sharpen things back. But first I need to go through june without burning out!

Let see how it unfolds from now on...