Reviewing the data

The nice thing about returning to races year after year is the chance to see the fitness gains, improvement in technical skill and ability to press on under any conditions. With six years of racing at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo under our belts, Nick and I have some good data. Granted, while it is the same course from year to year - other things change. We've had all kinds of weather, from the AZ hurricane of 2011, cold damp nights in 2009, endless wind from 2012 and this years heat wave. I've had to use every stitch of clothes in my bag some years and hardly any other years. The numbers of people in the race have also increased over the years, leading to more slowing and accelerating for passes. Course quality varies every year - a puddle filled track in 2010, mud followed by tight track during the storm of 2011, and this years brown sugary, sandy loose trail. Bikes have changed, with both of us on 29ers now. So the pure lap times are hard to compare. Yes, Nick and I did 4 more laps the we did the first year we raced. So we have gotten much fitter. I've gone from riding the Option once and feeling exhilarated by conquering it to cruising through the rocks on my HT without a second thought. So the technical riding has also improved. Our ability to manage the plan and make on the fly adjustments is also better - and part of the reason Nick and I make such a good team. We don't need to talk to communicate with each other.

But numbers don't lie.  And for the first time, I have power numbers from two separate years to compare and analyze. No fancy graphs and charts like in my Frog Hollow review, but some solid numbers. Last year, I rode my Fate with the PT wheel for 8 of my 10 laps. I rode my Era for two laps after flatting and tearing a side wall on my front tire on the Fate and returned to the Fate for the last two laps of the race As expected, I started out with a high, but well within my limits, power and appropriate HR response for the effort level. Unlike at Frog Hollow, where there is a steady, 20 minute climb to open the lap, Old Pueblo is very rolling, not leading to settling in and hitting specific power numbers. It's a flowy course that favors smooth pedaling and power modulation to sustain the same effort for the entire lap. There's also a lot of easing up and soft pedaling, then hard accelerations due to the other riders. With that given, its still a good comparison from year to year to see the improvements. Last year, my first lap was the second lap of the race. No running, no craziness. I rode a 1:11 with a 181 NP, but at 157 average heart rate. That's just shy of my Tempo power range, so I wasn't overcooking given that I still had 9 laps to ride. As anticipated, the normalized power and average heart rate would start to drop with each following lap. I kept in in the mid 170s for NP and 145-150 for average HR for my next two laps, but then saw a significant drop in both data points. Down into the low 160s and 130s. I never was able to get the power back up in the 170s for the rest of the laps on the Fate and was seeing some erroneous reading from the HR since I hadn't cleaned it at all during the race. Seeing that kind of drop is anticipated with 24 hour racing and the lap after lap format of racing duo. It's learning to manage the fatigue to still be able to ride the course well and produce the power when needed that counts. Given that last year, I was able to pull out two fast last laps, with lower NP then my first few laps indicates that I've definitely improved in that area from our first few years racing.

This year, very similar numbers. I knew that doing the start would shake some things up with timing, fatigue levels and the general race. Because of the importance of hitting the single track in a good position on that start lap, I definitely burned a few matches, leading to a higher NP for that lap. It also made it a little harder for me to settle for the rest of the race as I was in more of a recovery hole for the rest of the race. My fastest lap times were never as fast as prior years, but I was more consistent with all my lap times. I hit a NP of 185 for the first lap, so closer to steady state effort level then the prior year, but with a 157 HR. The biggest thing I noticed this year with the lap analysis was that while the NP was a little lower then last year - ranging from the 160s to low 170s for all the laps on the Fate, the HR was much lower at the same NP. About 4-5 beats per minute lower, which for me is a significant difference. So while I was working just as hard as last year based on power, I wasn't working as hard cardiovascularly. I've gotten fitter and better able to tolerate the extended workloads. I also only rode 6 laps on the Fate this year, so I don't  have quite as much data to look at. I had to switch bikes mid-race because of the dust and no longer being able to keep the Fate clean enough to ride. Another thing that I noticed this year was when I got on my Camber, I didn't have the same huge drop in lap times as I did on the Era last year. I think its due to the increase in strength and fitness. Riding a slightly heavier bike wasn't as much as an issue this year then last year. (And the Camber is just plain fun...)

So what does all that babbling tell me? Pretty simple. Despite a not as bike focused build to this year's 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, I'm still getting fitter. The higher power numbers don't wear me out like it did in prior years and I'm recovering better between laps. I'm better able to tolerate burning matches to make passes, then settle back to my comfort zone and recover. I know there's still a lot of work to do in the next three months, both on and off the bike. But after looking at the numbers, I think I'm in a good position. This is always the starting point for the rest of the season. Training right will be the key to keep building upon to help me meet my goals for this year.

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