Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Year Review and a Look to the Next

I left the road season this year in a blur of track frenzy and exhaustion from the road.  I haven't ridden a road bike in a couple weeks and the 'cross season has started with a bang.  What to make of all this in the whole scheme of my amateur racing career?

For one thing, I've matured as a racer.  My equipment, after two years of upgrading and buying, is finally sufficient for all aspects of road competition.  I have two road racing bikes - solid, fast steeds; three specialty bikes (cyclocross, time trial, and track); and my trusty commuter.  All the components on these bikes are sufficient; they are not holding me back.  I feel like I am in a good spot, equipment wise, between top-of-the-line and budget.  That means that until my results catch up to my bikes, I am down to spending only on consumables, clothing, and races.  If I play it right, the sport should be getting cheaper for me.

In competition, I'm racing in the Cat3's on the road, Cat4 on the track, and CatB in 'cross.  I still have upgrade aspirations for the track, and with 'cross I don't especially care, but for road, I am where I will be for the next couple years at least.

I feel like I have room to improve.  Even after being 20lbs less than I was two years ago, I can still stand to lose another 20lbs.  This is make or break.  At 175lbs, I am an average Cat3.  At 165lbs, I'll crush.  This is not idle tough guy talk.  It's just fact.  Right now, due to the off season, I'm 182lbs... but I'm racing (cross) again, and will soon start building my mileage from the current near zero to 10-15 hours a week.  This isn't a fantasy.  I am still, if not fat anymore, not skinny.  But it will take work.  Now that equipment is not holding me back... I simply need to put in the hours.

And here's the thing.  I have time for that too.  The first year I was racing I was terribly inefficient with training time.  I drove to lots of team rides instead of riding.  I hesitated and watched TV for an hour before hoping on the trainer or rollers.  I scrubbed training rides due to weather instead of simply bucking up and getting out there.  Second year, I am more efficient, but still not as efficient as I could be.  Much of this is simply about knowing what to do and doing it.  Hesitation and uncertainty is the bane of my life.  But with experience, training becomes smoother and more efficient.  I don't need half an hour to get ready anymore because I know with my eyes closed what needs to be in the car and/or in my pockets.  I know what to eat, I know what to drink.

So, the plan for next year, subject to change.  Currently I'm kind of idling myself, merely developing my handling skills and keeping myself sharp by racing cyclocross.  November 1st rolls around and I start ramping up the indoor trainer and weekend rides.  This rolls through January on a gradual ramp; a 12 week program to develop my functional threshold and lose weight.  In February, the long outdoor rides start.  I want to be doing 4-5 hour rides a couple times a week.  I'm not certain the logistics of this yet, but I want to be doing about 15 hours a week on the bike at this point.  Just steady miles to build base with FTP interval sessions in between.  The racing season starts at the end of February.  At this point I start trading training miles for race miles.  I peak first for the April spring stage races.  I want to weigh 170lbs at this point.  At the end of April, I take a couple weeks break and start building for another peak in July.  I peak in July for the Cascade Classic stage race.  I want to weigh 165lbs.  I end the road season with a generous helping of crits and track racing.

That's the plan.  I now know my body, and I know I've executed parts of this plan over the last couple years.  It's year three and it's time to put it all together.  The goal is to be able to win in Cat3 road races.  I don't suspect I'll get the points to upgrade to Cat2, but I want to show myself I have the potential to win in the P/1/2 field in the next couple years.

As an aside, I almost scrubbed the last sentence of the last paragraph above.  Is it going too far to even state that I'd like to win a P/1/2 race?  I dunno.  Aim to the sky to skim the trees?  Is it a fantasy?

Let me put it to rest.  I can roll with the big boys on a sprint finish.  All that's needed to win a P/1/2 race is to make it to the end with the field.  I won't be the best'est mountain goat.  I won't be the strongest TT'er.  But I can sprint and that's my ticket in the big boy races.

Evolution is...

First race: Pain on the Peak: 2nd to last

Second race: Hood River DX, day two: 5th from last

(Third race: Blind Date #1: DNF -- doesn't count; flat)

Fourth race: Battle at Barlow: 14th from last

Fifth race: Blind Date #2: 38th out of 66, mid-pack

...moving up in life.