Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sticking to the Plan

Over the past couple of years I've climbed Highway 9 out of Saratoga enough to almost have the route burned to memory. In fact, I probably could draw it out on a napkin and have my representation be pretty close to what you'd find on Google maps.

Yesterday before my ride I was reviewing my old powermeter data. Specifically I was looking at my efforts over 20 minutes, i.e. my 20 minute max. I take pride in the fact that I can hold a pretty big number of watts for 20 minutes; however, this doesn't really help much on climbs considering I weigh 200 pounds. The watts/kilo calculation puts me out of the range of being a super-strong climber.

The first thing I noted around my max 20 minutes efforts were the fact that none of them were on Highway 9. I swear this had to be wrong because I knew for a fact that this climb had been the source of some painful rides in the past. Time to right this wrong and get on the climb to clock in a hard effort.

But before heading out the door I decided to look at my data from my best ride up the climb. It showed that my effort up the climb was around 40 watts below my threshold. Upon further inspection it was easy to see that I hit the bottom portion of the climb (up to around Redwood Gulch) pretty hard and then my watts consistently drifted downward. Hmm, interesting...

I decided to put a brain cell or two to use before heading out. If I could manage to not go too hard in the beginning of the climb I should have a better shot of besting my record. I decided that I my upper limit was 400 watts and the lower limit was 350. This lower limit was going to hurt especially after passing Redwood Gulch.

On the ride over from my house I got the anticipation butterflies. I hadn't tried to put this much thought into how to tackle a climb...ever. I didn't know how I would respond but I was excited to see.

I started out and it actually was difficult for me to temper back the watts. I wanted to hit the climb hard but I had to remind myself to stick with the plan and ease back a bit. This proved to be immediately beneficial because there are a few areas below Saratoga Springs where I always see my watts drop off. This time it didn't happen...I felt like I was managing my effort and it was showing me some immediate benefits.

As I approached Redwood Gulch I clicked through my computer display to see some other relevant numbers. My HR as high, but in my usual range for hard efforts. Cadence looked really good (I really, really like my compact crank). And now for the most interesting...my average watts for the climb. 369!

WHAT!?!

369. It wasn't a mistake. Immediately I knew that I would either blow up pretty big in a few minutes or that I would need to increase my faith in the plans I had laid before the climb. Being brought up in a religious household and still being religious I decided to have a little faith.

Faith must be a strong thing. Over the course of the next 3 remaining miles I had 2 side aches show up that really, really hurt. I don't think I've ever had two on a climb. One, yes, but that doesn't happen too often. But this was new territory, so I had to have faith.

The summit was getting closer and I pulled up the timer on the computer. It seemed like my plan was working! I was going to beat my previous best. I crossed my "finish line" and had shaved, let me rephrase that, CRUSHED, my old record by one minute and nine seconds!

It ended up that my average watts for the entire climb was 368. I only lost 1 watt of power over the last 3 miles and put out my highest averages over the last five minutes of the climb. Talk about ramping it up at the end...

It's pretty cool to see that you can approach a climb armed with some data and execute a plan to climb a hill with new success. Not sure if I like getting the double-barrel side aches, but maybe if I keep up these kind of efforts these will be a thing of the past.

5 comments:

Neil Duane Harrington said...

i have had a similiar experience up olh - amazing what a plan can do...on and that power thingy

Anonymous said...

U dun gud!!

Old Fart is proud of you!!

Kevin- said...

If you flip you meter mount you actually did 693 which is even cooler...

Absolute Goose said...

okay bud, I say you and I get out there a push each other to a better number, or we pick another climb and do the same.

Manley Man said...

Goose, we probably could both get into the low 34's if we pushed each other. It's scary to think about this, but every time I've broken my own PR it's always been by at least a minute. So if things go as they have in the past a low time in the 34's is in the works.