Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Black Tape Racing

Last week during my rest week I felt like toasted dog crap all week. Not sick, but sore and tired. Like I had the poison in my legs. I’m sure you’ve all felt it. Even on Saturday, I felt good but not great, which was a little disheartening because on Saturday of my previous rest week, I’d felt like Superman. Sunday was complete rest, Monday was a fairly strenuous yoga class. Last night was the first ride since Saturday.

My plan is going through a phase where high torque, low rpm is the order of the day, and last night was no different. Basically, 5 minutes low rpm followed by 5 minutes lighter spinning, ad nauseum. Throughout, the torque intervals became higher rpm with decreased torque and the high rpm intervals became more force and less rpm, to where they kind of merged for a final 5 minute interval with instructions to “hammer it.” Well, hammer it I did.

Last summer, I read that some of the younger Euro Pros had come up with the concept of the “black tape race.” A black tape race is a race that’s so hard that you don’t even want to know what kind of watts you’re blowing, lest you fall over and die. So you put some black tape over the wattage line on your bartop screen. Ignorance is bliss. Last summer, I mostly raced without a heart rate monitor for the same reason, so it was funny to hear of these guys and their black tape.

Anyhow, at the start of the hammer interval I hit the interval marker and just black taped it. The first minute or so felt fine, but it sure felt like time was going slowly. The watch started to behave much better after the two minute mark, and the final two minutes just flew by. I knew I’d done a good interval, but didn’t know how good until I downloaded the workout. My effort was tabletop flat – I must have stayed within plus or minus 2 watts the whole time, so I am learning to gauge different effort levels by feel, which is cool. Another cool part was that I knocked the crap out of my old 5 minute mark which I’d thought was a really good effort when I did it. The coolest part of all, though, was that I totally inadvertently set a new mark for 30 minutes. Two “on” high torque intervals plus three high rpm “rest” intervals plus one “hammer” interval averaged better than my previous best 30 minute effort. Sweet. The secondary indicators (heart rate and perceived exertion) were both meaningfully lower than the power output would have suggested, plus I was on a trainer. Putting in a rugged effort always seems easier outside.

The 5 and 20 minute watts/kg goals that I’d set for end of March are now tantalizingly within reach. There should be a “free” bump in there since I still have around 2 kgs of off season flab which is doing nothing for my numerator but increasing my denominator, and if improvement keeps coming at anything even approaching its past rate* I’ll be good to go.

All of that said, if power numbers and all that crap was as important as people often make it out to be, we could all just email our power files in to MABRA periodically and save ourselves all the hassle of going out and racing.

*Past results are no guarantee of future performance. Please check your prospectus before investing in this or any other line of BS that I try to pawn off on you.


GamJams said...

After talking at such length about power numbers and your achievement of them, you're obligated to actually divulge the 5-minute and 30-minute wattages. It's one of the Immutable Laws of the Internets.

Chuck Wagon said...

3.8 w/kg 30 minutes, 5 w/kg 5 minutes.

My 5 minute power is supposedly good according to the people who have graphs and charts for these things, so this year when I go off three laps out in a crit, yes, I'm trying to win from there. The 30 minute is so-so to eh. I haven't tested any other intervals.

In a month I'll try a 30 minute test that doesn't include any rest intervals.

GamJams said...

Those are solid Cat 3 numbers. Nice.

But I've got a suspicion that as a region, we're above the Coggan curve. Cat 3 numbers and $4 gets you a cup of coffee in a Cat 3 race these days.

Chuck Wagon said...

Thanks and agreed. Although I hear all the 4's in NorCal are 5 w/kg threshold.

You also have to remember the kid in high school who was a complete dunce, got crappy grades and then banged out a 1350 on the SAT. Some people test well, some perform well. Hopefully I am not a middling case of the former.