Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stretching, massage and other time wasters

OK, I'm being a bit difficult here but there's actually little to be said for stretching and massage, at least in the context of fit, well adjusted bodies playing sport. Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor of anything, medical or otherwise, but I ride and I have an opinion based on both practice and research. Let's start with stretching.

Unless you have a lack of flexibility, relative to the range of motion required, what are you trying to achieve by stretching? A warm-up? Why not just ride easily and gradually bring yourself up to speed? In this way you warm up exactly the muscles you need to engage in the activity. Why indeed would you stretch cold muscles and tendons, and thus risk injury? Or perhaps you want to cool down. It seems odd that an activity that is used to 'warm-up' is also used to cool down. In fact why not just ride slower and gradually bring yourself to a cooler state?

If you do have a lack of flexibility then sure, work on what the problem may be with targeted stretches. get advice from a physio on exactly what to do and help to avoid injury.

Which brings me to massage. OK, the pros do it so it must be good. Well maybe it is but where's the evidence? Go on, take a look at the literature. It certainly doesn't seem to hurt, but at best it simply feels good and may act to help convince you that it is good; and thus convinced you may ride better next time. So it's in the mind, not the body. And plenty of riders do swear that they feel better after a massage, so it works for them. But physiologically the effects are so minimal as to be... non-existent. Or not measurable. When you think about it, why would a trained athlete not have an efficient circulatory system? Why would toxins and other waste-products from exercise not be pumped away swiftly from major working muscles like those in the legs? Why would waste linger longer in an athlete, somehow pooling in key areas of great vascular development? Now a non-athlete with fluid retention or some other circulatory problem I could understand, but a highly-trained sports person? I'm open to the evidence, I just haven't seen any that convinces.

Friday, January 18, 2008

ibike crit overview - with pics

Yeah, ok, it's D-grade but every race is as hard as you make it, or as hard as that guy who should go up a grade makes it, anyway. So here are some pics to show you what the new ibike2 software is like... Straight below is an overview of the new data display. You get a detailed data summary on the top left, now including some aero values you can plug into other software for comparison, or to take away and tweak. You also get a useful tool for analysing the data, setting barometric pressure and adjusting your 'coast-down' values post-ride. So you can load old rides and update the ibike values, for example, if you have adjusted 'em. It gives you more control over the results. The blue area is the crit last week. The rest is pre-race warmup and post-race cool-down. Top-most graph is power in Watts. Next is speed, then elevation and last of all slope. You can see from elevation that there's a hill each lap... and you can move the cursor to any point and get power, speed and elevation data at that point.
And this is the power peak in close up. Along the bottom of the display you see the data on the cursor: 752W, 35.9kmh, 3.8% slope. If you run those numbers through your calculator (plus weight, temp, barometer, elevation, headwind, all available from the ibike) you'll verify that's pretty darn close. The only real problem is when you hit the 'go' button too hard on a climb and lift the front wheel. You can easily turn 3.8 degrees into 4.5, or more, and get a huge - and inaccurate - power reading. But you can fix that any number of ways, too. Especially if you ride the same hill a few times and know the slope doesn't exceed 4.5%, for example.
Last for today - this is a closeup on the velocity peak. Speed maxed out in the sprint at a lowly 49.1km/h, best so far being over 55kmh, but it was into a headwind this time, and I managed to pick the wrong wheel to follow, too. So I ended up in front too early. Still, you can see the power peak on the hill just prior to the downhill sprint - basically where the last attack went. We continued at good speed until the 90 degree left turn but power is down because I'm on a wheel and we are dropping elevation. Someone starts the sprint, I chase, catch and get marooned. Ooops. You can see the sprint power is 529W and the wind has increased markedly after the left-turn.

True, it doesn't tell you anything that you couldn't have worked out anyway, but it puts it right in your face -up in lights. 3 races documented so far and I know how critical that hill is - it's where most attacks start, especially on the last lap. I can see exactly what power I need to generate to match those attacks, and I can see how important it is to stay calm, hang onto a wheel and don't go too early in the sprint, especially if it's windy! And I can take this data away, find a similar hill and practice putting out 700W+ intervals. I could tailor a 'crit simulation' session around this data and see what works. I may find that those steep, medium-power intervals don't help me in crits and that I need to do more snappy, higher power efforts over shorter distances. And so on.

You can do it by feel, or you can buy a power meter and 'prove' your theories. It's up to you.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Worked hard for a tough 2nd place

Yeah, right. A tough D-grade crit. Riiiight. Well after 2x 1st places in a row I was hungry for a 2nd place this time and did a lot more work at the front. And this time I'll show you the pictures. If you are using Firefox this will work fine, but MS Internet Explorer usually goes haywire and wrecks my layout. Well I use Firefox and I don't care.Firstly, my spreadsheet view of the race data. Basically I took the ibike data from the .csv file and poured it into my own spreadsheet. It gives me max power, average power, mean, average minus zeros, average in power bands, max watts/kilogram, VAM, average and max speed, average and max inclination... I think you get the picture. The normalisation is my own formula (changed once again - it's an evolving beast).

OK, yes, 31.1kmh is a slow average. There was headwind down the short straight and a 4.5% hill each 2km lap, though. It was the slowest of my 3 'comeback' races, but I did more work, too. Average was 155W but if you discount the zeroes (ie drafting, coasting) it was 170W. If you believe in my new normalisation formula it was 234, a dubious measure but the highest race figure so far (at least I can agree with that, it felt like the biggest effort).

The sprint was again in 2 parts: the attack up the hill was the Wattage peak, followed by a slowish downhill sprint into a headwind. I lacked punch and when I caught the breeze I stagnated... but held onto 2nd, anyway.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Riders who also run

I'm not sure why, but plenty of riders are turning to running, especially after retirement from pro cycling. Is it a fear of incipient osteoporosis? The lure of a new challenge? Less time-consuming? Or is running just easier? (I doubt the latter.) Anyway, here are some more... starting with Rabo's Michael Boogerd:Meanwhile, he is still staying athletically involved. He plans to run the Rotterdam marathon on April 13, as preparation for the RopaRun, a three day event from Paris to Rotterdam which raises money for charity. "It is for a good cause, and now that I have stopped racing I still need do something to keep my condition on a good level," Boogerd said. "I now try to run an hour each day. It does me good. Later this year, I want to run the New York marathon." His training partner is Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel, who ran the New York marathon in 2007. "I asked him and Michael was enthusiastic," she said. "After my cycling career, I found running to be a new sport where I feel good. I think that running will also be good for Michael."

And Armstrong, of course: Lance Armstrong will continue his post-retirement marathon career by competing in the Boston Marathon on April 21, the race organisers announced Thursday. Armstrong qualified after finishing the New York City Marathon in 2007, bettering his previous year's effort with a finishing time of two hours 46 minutes and 43 seconds. The seven time Tour de France champion was well under the Boston Marathon's qualifying time for his 35-to-39 age group of three hours 15 minutes.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Yeah OK, another win

I managed to win the local crit again - yes folks, D-grade. Well I had to work at it! I had to avoid falling (one rider down as a faster grade caught us on a corner - nasty!) and I had to watch for breaks (just one semi-serious attempt, easily caught). And I had to patiently wait for the impetuous youngster to start the sprint.

More importantly it gave me more race data. So I can confirm that last week's 1400W burst was indeed an error on the ibike's part, as expected. I'll show you the data later but every lap we went over a small hill, and each lap the hill got steeper. Or so the ibike thought. When 'corrected' it's still a 900W effort (bridging a last-lap gap). This week's data is much more consistent and the peak power a more miserly 800W. I was careful not to expend too much energy in short bursts, rather I anticipated accelerations and smoothly bridged. Each lap the hill registered between 300 and 5ooW effort and 42% of the race was above 200W. If you trust the ibike, of course!

It's a slightly downhill sprint so although I briefly hit 55kmh the power was just on 600W.

I have upgraded to ibike firware v1.16. I always reset after a ride and do a re-tilt when changing bikes. I have a battery of coast-down data to tap into a well. It's not perfect, it certainly goes awry when the barometer is moving around, and if you lift the bars or otherwise drastically alter your weight distribution during a ride then it can generate some flaky figures... but it works well enough to be a great tool for the data junkie on a budget.