2013 NCCX Series, Week 4

Week four — NASCROSS — was cyclocross at the Orange County Speedway just north of Durham, North Carolina. It’s not every day that we get to race on the steep banked asphalt of stock car race track, but once a year at the Durham cyclocross race we get to do just that.

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It was a roadie’s dream come true. It was easy to spot them on the oval track!

But in keeping with true cyclocross form, the amount of the course that is actually on pavement is small. Besides riding two-thirds of a lap on the speedway, there are several grass turns in the infield, some gravel road, a short section of cement sidewalk, some single track in the woods, some challenging off-camber turns on grass, and one steep runup. In other words, it is a great cyclocross venue.

Like several of the other courses, there has been a move to make the course more “roadie-friendly”. The number of chicanes and the ruggedness of the singletrack section has been minimized so that the venue has become more of a power course this year. I guess from a business perspective, it’s a good way to bring in the road racers to the sport.

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Who says I didn’t leave it all out on the course? Look at that intensity!

All things considered it was a good course, even if it was a more roadie-friendly than last year. It was tough, physically demanding, fast, and technically challenging. The weather was perfect: temperatures in the 60s, sunny, and low humidity. The wind was blowing from the northwest at about 20mph but fortunately the constant turning kept it from being a major factor.

If you’ve been following my race reports you remember that last weekend I had a little crisis. After racing almost every weekend for over two years I physically came to the end of my rope. My heart rate was all over the map, and I don’t remember half the race. Not good. Between the non-stop racing, training 10+ hours a week, and my body trying to fight off a cold, I finally reached a breaking point.

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“You can catch him!” “You can catch him!” “You can catch him!”

I decided to take two weeks off training completely, and then re-evaluate. It was tough, but I managed to lay off the training completely. No running. No mountain bike. No club rides. Nothing. Well, I went for a very slow 30-mile ride on Wednesday just to keep my legs moving, but I was careful to never break a sweat. I truly kept my training to a minimum.

My hopes were that this strategy would allow me to rest and still keep me in the running for the NCCX series omnium. After the first four races I had moved up to 5th place in the Masters 1/2/3 category and I was optimistic that I could take some time off, get recharged, and still not move too far back in the series standings.

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“Don’t quit now… you can catch him!”

So, I was very careful to rest and I showed up to Durham’s race ready to see how my strategy was working. I pre-rode but took it easy. I focused on staying relaxed and restricting my efforts to only the race. During my two lap pre-ride my heart rate was higher than I expected to see it given the level of exertion so I was concerned that this week would be a repeat of Boone.

As I sat on my bike at the start line, I felt good — not great, but good. I told myself to just go out and do my best. It didn’t matter how well I did. But the truth is, it did matter. I’m competitive and I wanted to do well against a tough field of riders, most of whom I’d beaten in previous races. First the Men’s 1/2/3 45+, then the Pro Women, and finally it was time for us to go. The whistle blew and we were off.

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The amount of single track was down from last year and was very pristine.

I got a decent start and went into the first turn in fourth place. Before long I had slipped to fifth and then to sixth. Then fourth place went down, taking out fifth and I rode by them and was back in fourth. Eventually I slipped back to eighth but eventually managed to work my way back to seventh where I finished. I think the week off helped a lot although I could tell I was still not back to a hundred percent and was still fighting off the cold.

I was anxious to see if my numbers were anywhere back to where they should be and I was happy to see that they were almost back to normal. The first group are for this week and the second group are from last week. Because I use a CycleOps PoweCal heart rate based power meter that derives power from the rate of change in heart rate, among other factors, and because my heart rate was spiking, last week’s power numbers were unreliable.

Avg HR: 98 % of Max
Max HR: 112 % of Max
Avg Power: 225 W
Max Power: 906 W
Max Avg Power (20 min): 232 W
Normalized Power (NP): 231 W
Intensity Factor (IF): 0.892
Training Stress Score (TSS): 66.4
FTP Setting: 259 W
Work: 685 kJ

 

Last week’s numbers:

 

Avg HR: 90 % of Max
Max HR: 137 % of Max
Avg Power: 253 W
Max Power: 1,216 W
Max Avg Power (20 min): 251 W
Normalized Power (NP): 352 W
Intensity Factor (IF): 1.359
Training Stress Score (TSS): 113.7
FTP Setting: 259 W
Work: 569 kJ

As you can see, my average heart rate last week was only 90% and that counted the numerous spikes at way above max heart rate. This week, my HR numbers are excellent. My goal is to maintain 95% average or better for entire 45+ minute race. I held 98% which is about as well as I’ve ever done. Average power was not a PR but strong for me, as was max average 20-minute power.

Lap 1 — 8:11.8
Lap 2 – 8:14.0
Lap 3 – 8:18.0
Lap 4 – 8:27.0
Lap 5 – 8:25.0
Lap 6 – 8:14.0

My lap times were all consistent again and all within +/- 8 seconds. My fastest laps were lap one, two and six. Laps two and six were identical and only 3 seconds off my fastest lap time. The consistency is an indicator that my rest is helping although I’m not out of the woods just yet.

This week I’m taking another week off training. Hopefully by the weekend I will have recovered from the deficit that two straight years of racing every weekend has racked up. I only slipped one place in the omnium, back to sixth and with a good finish in the races this weekend I could move up closer to the podium.

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I’m keeping my fingers crossed and I’m looking forward to having some snap back in my legs. This weekend we race both Saturday and Sunday at Sand Hills Community College in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Saturday is the state championship race so I’d like to have a strong finish in what will likely be a big crowd.