The paddlewheel of the riverboat, “Belle of Louisville”
Chapter 11Same Voyage. New Boat.

The notion of “continuous improvement” in cycling — as in any walk of life — involves a constant blend of three items: introspection, awareness, and positive motivation. This post, despite the initial circumstance mentioned, is about renewed motivation.

When I started The Transparent Season I promised myself… and by extension, my readers… that I would be both complete and transparent. In other words, no editing, no embellishing, and no holding back.

I've been honest with you about my challenges — such as getting dropped and wanting to throw in the towel.

But to be even more honest, the topic for this entry is even more challenging.

First, the simple description of what just transpired.

If you've been following along from the beginning, you may note that this coming Sunday, May 22 is the date of my first scheduled “A” race of the year. This race just happens to be the Ohio State Road Race Championships.

Most races in this area have pre-registration that ends at noon the day before the race. I took it for granted that this situation was in force for Sunday's race, and it’s never really been my practice to register several days or weeks prior. The reason for that is pragmatic: as much as I train and prepare, I also have a business I run and a family. 

Going online Friday night before the Sunday race to register, I learned I was mistaken. Registration ended an hour before I went online!

Long story short: I will not be participating for the race for which I’ve been prepping for weeks.

I sat in front of the monitor on my desktop computer dumbfounded. Literally and figuratively, I had missed the boat. 

How could I not have pre-registered — or at least known when registration would end — for the first prioritized race of my season?

“Self-fulfilling prophecy” comes to mind…

Rationalization. Then realization.​

Sure, there is a day of event registration, however the event is nearly 3 hours away. And, because the race is a championship race, the field sizes are significantly larger. (For example, the mixed category 4/5 race is not listed as a championship, and no jersey will be rewarded, therefore, the Cat 4 field ballooned with riders who normally rode the 4/5 in order to have a shot at recognition.)  I have no concern about racing in a large field, it's just that the notion of driving three hours for the possibility of learning the field is full doesn't excite me.

To add insult to injury, day of registration is $10 more expensive than usual.

Now, here is the full disclosure…

I'm actually more relieved than I am disappointed.

The last several weeks have been ones of lower than usual motivation for training. There has been one significant bright spot: my first run at my favorite weekly time trial event saw my 20 minute average power, or FTP, increase by 15 watts. (252, up from 237.) That was encouraging, despite the fact that the time trial went off in a steady, cold rain.

Cleves TT power file from 5-17-16

Tuesday, 5 days before my now-missed road race, showing good gains in efficiency and muscular endurance. My Variability Index (VI) for the 10.2 mile TT was 1.03, meaning I was laying down very consistent power; My Intensity Factor (IF) was 1.07, meaning I was running over my threshold, my Average Power for the whole event was 251. Compare that with the best 20-minute power of 252 (259, Normalized) and this is a significant increase from my current 237W FTP measure. 

A comment from the previous entry’s post rightly quipped that I should “harden up” and race in the rain. For the TT, I did…

No one set any personal records that night, however many, including me, remarked that they were holding some of the highest wattages so far of the season.

A much needed reboot

I have gone on the USA cycling website to see if there are any non-criterium road races in Ohio specifically between now and the end of the year. Again, if you are familiar with my “A" races, you will know that the Smiths Dairy Milk Race, scheduled for August 7, was to be my second “A" race of the year. After consulting the site, and learning that there are no additional non-crit races scheduled until then, I searched for time trials.

My Shot at Redemption

The balance of my 2016 season

Rejiggering the balance of my 2016 season

Success is derived by how well we adapt to change. So — here is change: That orange bar labelled “Race” is the race where I slept through registration. ’Nuff said. Looking forward there’s the B-race Time Trial near my home, run by the same folks that run the Cleves Time Trial on Tuesday nights. It’s going to be a great prep race for the next “A” event on July 17: The Ohio State TT Champs. Then, the race in August is the final Road Race of the year — the Smith’s Dairy Milk Race. All the focus on TT’s should really prepare my muscular endurance.

The Ohio State Time Trial Championships is scheduled for Sunday, July 17. Awesome. I now have my next goal, and how cool is it that it’s another state champs.

Deerfield Ohio, where the TT champs is located is, according to Google maps, four hours and 56 minutes away from my home. In other words, it's a day trip, and overnight stay, and a race.

What's interesting about that, is that I did that routine the last two times I raced the course I will be missing in two days.

Two seasons ago most of the races I participated in required a drive and a stay and careful planning. And it's interesting that I did much, much better in those races. There's something calming about getting into a mindset that requires a multi-day effort that seems to do well for me. That is, as long as motivation remains high.

Over the last several weeks, work pressures have weighed heavily on my mind, causing many of my previously enjoyable training sessions to be viewed more as “musts” rather than “wants,” and those “musts” were becoming conflicts to getting work done during the day.

Working from home during the days meant — during the start of the season, anyway — that gym time and trainer time were welcome diversions from the responsibilities of a marketer. Then, as projects slowed, the projects I did have became more crucial — as did keeping up the search for new projects.

Hopping on the trainer for a 90-minute supra-threshold session demands full mental commitment. And when your mind is focused on completing a copy project or a strategy document that’s due in 3 hours, well…you get the picture.

I know this isn't anything new to any of you who have been training and racing for any length of time; we all go through ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. And more than a few of those valleys are predicated on time stress, work stress, and family commitments.

I'm a full-time independent contractor; I'm not punching a clock, therefore all of my profitable activity is up to me to hunt down and find. And once I find it, it's up to me to make sure it's completed.

So here is my new rhythm:

The time trial championships are 11 weeks away. That means four weeks of Build One, followed by five weeks of Build Two, a peak week and the race.

During that 11 weeks, there is a 28-mile time trial very near my home on the day before my birthday, June 18. It will serve as a great practice race one month before the state TT Champs. ​

I will begin laying in my workouts for Build One focusing on muscular endurance for the length of that time trial. Currently the website link for the time trial provides no information regarding the length of the race. But I think it's fair to assume a 40K.

Meanwhile, every Tuesday night heading into September, the local time trial series that I enjoy so much continues. I will be participating in many of them, and for those I am not participating in I will be photographing and videotaping. (I’m producing a documentary on the time trial series. It has an interesting story. Check out some of the images.)

We don’t do this for a living

If you’re reading my blog, you’re most likely an amateur. You aren’t paid to race. Hopping on your bike, even for painful training, should be — ultimately — for enjoyment.

In order to enjoy the process of improvement, we need pacing and perspective.

Part of this process is gaining the perspective that I enjoy time trialing more than I enjoy road racing. And I already know that I enjoy road racing more than I enjoy crit racing. Awareness is a very good thing.​

Absentmindedly mis-planning for pre-registration for my first “A” Race has therefore helped me reboot. Assuming I can balance my work needs with my fresh training focus, we'll be off to the races on the 18th of June.

Sam Lowe

I've been a road cyclist with a penchant for speed ever since my first-ever paycheck holiday. I blew the whole wad on a turquoise Schwinn Tempo with then-new Shimano 105 indexed shifting way back in 1985. I've been a voracious consumer of racing-oriented information ever since. Training, nutrition, bike fit, racing techniques, and all manner of "kit." Between nearly 30 years of riding, racing, and reading about racing, I'm ready to help you get ready to race.