Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's Not About the Numbers

It's Tuesday afternoon and that means one thing... The Drives Ride. Every Tuesday during the summer many of the coaches peel themselves away from their computers and kit up to see if we can break each other's legs. I am especially excited this week because I am taking the helmet cam out on the ride to put up on Cadence TV so you all have fun videos to watch while you sit on your trainers all winter.

The Drives

The Drives is my favorite workout of the week and I truly look forward to every Tuesday. I call it my "Redline Workout" because I never go into the ride trying to win; I go trying to lose. Every week I try to hurt myself as much as I can at the front of the group. Can I chase down attacks, ride off the front and take more pulls than anyone else in the group and still have enough left to contend for the sprint? This has helped my racing immensely as I've still yet to hurt myself enough to keep me from finishing with the group. I've come close a couple times but each time I am able to dig deep and grab that last wheel and hold on until I've recovered. It has taught me that I CAN attack after the hardest climb in the race; I CAN cover multiple moves in a row for a teammate up the road in a break and I CAN sprint, even after I've fought in the wind to get into position in the last lap. You can never know your limits if you don't test them.

Off the front

Every once in a while a pro or two will show up and try to make everyone suffer a little more. Tyler Wren, Scotty Z, Geronimo, Dom Rollin. These guys are some of the best in the country and the ride becomes more fun when they show up. A few weeks ago Dom was in town and came out to mix it up with the local guys. The ride was nothing out of the ordinary, high pace, usually right around 29mph with 10-15 guys rotating up front. With a couple of miles to go I found Dom's wheel and stuck to it. About a mile from the sprint sign is a 200meter rise and that is where Dom made his move. He stood and attacked and I gave it everything I had to stick to him. Up and over the hill he went and we didn't look back; I knew we had a gap. 10 seconds later he flicked his elbow. "No way I can take a pull at these speeds," I thought but then I remember why I come out here. Maybe this is the day I can find my limit! I dug deeper than I had ever dug before and took a pull. It was probably only 20 seconds before Dom came around me for the sprint but it felt like an eternity. I had just gone off the front with Dom Rollin, winner of a stage at the Tour of California, Canadian National Champion... what a feeling. I couldn't wait to get home and look at the helmet cam video and download my power file. I bet I crushed my previous 2 minute max wattage.

My best numbers ever!

I hurried home and told my girlfriend, Kathleen, all about my successes. She was thrilled. I flipped open my computer and started downloading the data and then took out the camera to show Kathleen the last 5 minutes. I hit rewind but was confused when it only rewound for a second or two. I hit play and it hit me; I must have hit the off switch when I was putting it in my pocket before the ride began. I had no footage, none. I was devastated. I couldn't believe I had a camera and didn't get any of that great ride. But it was about to get worse. My files uploaded and I didn't see tonight's workout on the list. I looked at the head unit and saw it flashing there right in front of me... FULL. I must not have deleted my files from the last time and I never noticed it during the ride because I was keeping my head up the whole time because of the camera. I had nothing to show from my best ride ever. I couldn't believe it and did not sleep well that night.

The Moral isn't "keep diligent with erasing your powermeter"

As a coach you sometimes become fixated with numbers. Your numbers, your athletes numbers, Pro numbers. Science is easy to fall back on because it is quantitative. You produce more watts for a given duration, you are stronger than you were. Simple. But sometimes we forget that we are bike racers too. We don't do this for the numbers. We do this for race results. We do this to be stronger than the other guy. We do this for wins! The racing gods, in their infinite (though lousy) wisdom would not let me have any proof of that Drives ride... because it doesn't count for anything. Numbers are a great tool to follow progression but they cannot be the end goal. Podium pictures and medals should be what matters; for either you or your team. I wasn't ready to see numbers from that Drives ride because I would have been content with myself when I haven't even stepped on the podium once this season. I would have to prove I could do it in a race.

The Aftermath

So it's Tuesday again and I'm off the front at the Drives again and my legs are killing me. But not because I had a great workout yesterday and got some good numbers. My legs hurt because I spent 60 miles in the 4 man break at the state road race this past Sunday and finished 3rd!

It's not about the numbers unless the number is your finishing place!

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