Choking Up On The Rivet

From recent races it has been clear my running has been close to it's best. It definitely is the best it has been in years. However, my swimming and cycling is a long way from that level. In fact it has been about a decade since my last peak in the latter two disciplines. If I still want to aim for a personal best at the half ironman distance this summer, then I have a lot that needs improving. I don't really need to improve my basic running, but I do need to improve my ability to use the run after swimming and cycling. Due to time and life constraints I have resigned to that fact there is only so much time I can spend watching the black line. Within that framework I will get what I can get out of it. As for cycling, I believe I can find a lot of improvement.

So I am making an effort to do just that. A decade earlier I got the best out of myself on two wheels by putting in lots of kilometres. At least one very long ride each week, a moderate hard ride plus heaps of commuting, giving 300-500km/week. That style of training is impossible for me now. Life is different. So I need to get more from less. My approach is to attempt consistency and some decent intensity. I don't have the luxury of just being able to use volume by itself.

As a brief summary, if not vague summary, I will be steering clear of lots of very low intensity kilometers. Instead I am aiming for efforts closer to my threshold or maximal steady state for the longer rides, and intervals at above threshold, with a reasonable amount of work in the VO2max area. As a guiding factor, I will mainly aim to look for improvement in sustainable outputs, or put another way, gradually lift the speed I can maintain over race distances. Sounds simple, hopefully it is.

Getting better on the bike is more than just riding hard for extended periods of time. Therefore, over the last few weeks, and probably as an ongoing evolution I am really taking a look at my position on the bike. I have already made some significant changes where I have noticed some immediate improvement. My setup isn't completely time trial. I still want to race some sprint distance triathlons and duathlons, plus I like being able to have a bit of handling ability to help compensate for my lack of skills and keep the rubber side down. So my setup reflects that intent. Not strictly a 100% aero position, but something I am feeling comfortable with at this stage. Riding a Trek 5200, gives a natural 73.5 degree seat angle, but after a bit of repositioning, I now have a functional 76 degrees for the steep climbs and cornering. On the other hand, when I am in my time trial position, which is where I plan to spend the majority of my riding time, the effective seat angle is 78 degrees. This is achieved sitting forward on my saddle, (on the rivet). From this position, I have a what seams like a pretty reasonable setup. The cockpit is the correct length, I don't have muscle load through my arms or shoulders. The torso angle is slightly higher than many recommendations, but this seems to suit me.

I have spent a bit of time with video and some basic measurement software to check the angle fit the theory and tweaked it from there. Add to this a handful of longer rides over mixed terrain and I think I am on my way to holding three key bike positions:

  1. Time trial - (forward and aero)

  2. Steady climb - extra power (choking up the TT bars)

  3. Steep climb or hard cornering (back on the seat, on the drop bars)

There is a physical requirement to maintain these positions well. For the most part I believe have taking the load off the musculature as much as possible. What I do need to keep check on is that I maintain proper rotation on my pelvis. I have a tendency to roll back with a posterior tilt, which places a strength on my lower back muscles, reduces the aerodynamics of my body shape and removes some of the load sharing by my hamstrings, placing an increased reliance on the quadriceps muscles. I believe it is simply a bad habit I accumulated over the years with riding on my older bike, is a less than optimal position. The other physical requirement I need to concentrate on is to ensure I maintain appropriate flexibility, especially in my posterior-chain.

At the moment I am feeling very slow as mentioned in my previous post. I am happy to say everything is not always as it seems. Recently I hit a measured course on the bike. A rough and undulating 31km almost-out-and-back. A few weeks ago I hit this hard attempting to ride it as a pure time trial. The result was 1:18:42. Very slow, and it hurt a lot, but more significantly, I really had trouble holding form and sustaining any sort of decent output over the last 5-7km. This week was pleasingly different. This time I was out for my long ride and covered the 31km course twice over, riding at an almost comfortable effort, just aiming to always feel like I had to concentrate to keep the pedals turning. No easy spinning. The result was two consistent and much faster laps. 1:05:12 and 1:04:57 respectively. Conditions on the two days were very similar. I must be something right to drop 13 minutes off the time trial, not mention at an easy intensity and then repeat immediately.


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