This week’s column begins with an apology. My act of contrition goes out to anyone who had the misfortune of witnessing one of several temper tantrums I threw at the last couple Colorado Front Range cyclocross races.
See, after having one of my best career ’cross races (a come-from-the-back-of-the-pack 11th in the 35+/cat. 4s at round No. 2 of the Boulder Cup), I’ve gone three straight without making it to the finish line. And in each case I was well ensconced inside the top 10 before being taken down by mechanicals (two poorly timed punctures, one busted chain).
No doubt I had reason to be disappointed (I’ve been working really damn hard, trying to figure out this ’cross thing). But also no need to drop high-decibel F-bombs or treat my trusty Red Line like an Olympic discus (It’s amateur bike racing, not the Tour of Flanders).
So, if you or your children happened to be within earshot or eyesight, I’m sorry. In the future I promise to leave the epithets to Chris Rock and the bike tossing to Bjarne Riis and David Millar. As one of my teammates indirectly pointed out, you don’t want “to be that guy.”
The good news is that the local racing calendar includes four more chances to get this right. Or at least not as wrong. My coach, who does not prescribe to bike chucking as a means of stress relief, suggested instead that I heed the words of inventor Thomas Edison, who during his pursuit of the perfect light bulb famously claimed that he had never failed, but instead “just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
To wit, I have found that lower tire pressure — when you don’t have a garage full of tubulars — is risky business, that goat heads and clinchers (even with slimed tubes) mix like tequila and tomato juice, and that wrapping your chain around your bottom bracket is like pouring sand in your car’s gas tank. Next column I hope to tell you about my new phonograph, or at least what it feels like to actually race for the full 45 minutes.
Moving to happier times, I recently got the chance to re-do all the lab tests that kicked off this little experiment back in January. As you may or may not remember, coach Neal Henderson brought into the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine testing lab, and then with the help of his colleagues, put me through my paces, pricking my left ring finger more times than a George W. voodoo doll. The result was a pedestrian portfolio of scores — 250-watt lactate threshold, 3.2 watts per kilogram, and a VO2 max of 51.5. I was average in every way.
Flash forward to November 12, and it was time for test No. 2. Low and behold, all this coaching, Power Tap power meter training, and reasonably hard work has paid some modest dividends. My numbers were up across the board — 275-watt LT, 3.6 watts per kilogram, and a 59.6 VO2 max. Meanwhile, my heart rate to get said numbers was about 10 beats per minute lower at each increasing workload, meaning more output for less input.
Coach’s take on all this was that I’d shown classic “adaptation” to training, and that if my VO2 max jumped an equal percentage next go round, he’d have to call Dick Pound. He also pointed out that in a similar test he’d done the previous day, his VO2 max was 60.2. Sugar! I just missed him.
Still, I went home that day feeling pretty good about things. According to several charts coach had given me back in January, my test scores indicated the following progression:
? From “Good” past “High” up to “Athletic” in the male 30-39 VO2 max (mL/kg/min) table.
? From Sport/Cat. 4 to Expert/Cat. 3 in the Typical BCSM Power-to-Weight Ratio of Colorado Cyclists chart.
? And from “Trained” to “Elite” in the VO2 max (L/min) scale.
Whether these jumps will do me any good in the last few ’cross races remains to be seen, but at least I know this guy is faster that the one back in January.
No questions this week, but if you’d like to ask Coach Neal Henderson a question please send an e-mail to CoachNealQandA@gmail.com. Remember to include your name and hometown. Questions may be edited for content and clarity.
Editor’s Note: Jason Sumner is an almost-38-year-old, 172-pound freelance writer and Cat. 4 bike racer who is working with a cycling coach — and training with a Power Tap power meter — for the first time. Sumner underwent a full battery of lab tests at the beginning of the season, producing a 250-watt lactate threshold, a 3.2 watts per kilogram score and a VO2 max of 51.5, then was retested in mid-November and produced a 275-watt LT, a 3.6 watts per kilogram, and a VO2 max of 59.6. His 2008 goals included improving on his usual mid-pack finishes, not getting dropped on the weekend group rides, and learning something along the way. He is documenting his experiences for VeloNews.com is this twice-monthly column.
His coach, Neal Henderson, is sports science manager at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and a well-regarded elite-level coach. Henderson’s clients include 2008 Olympian and soon-to-be Livestrong rider Taylor Phinney. Henderson is also the winter triathlon coach for the U.S. national triathlon team, and this year was named USA Cycling National Development Coach of the Year. Henderson is working with Sumner on a pro bono basis.