I knocked out my power test this morning. Gros loves to cap off my rest weeks with a power test, which I guess is the by-the-book way to do it, but it's so damn hard to open the legs up when the past days have all been zone 1 tooling around.
After hitting the head three times pre-ride (guess I shouldn't have had the Spicy Italian sub for lunch yesterday) I warmed up a bit, in the dark. The legs didn't feel promising and I knew I was dehydrated, and not feeling great. Ehhh... Not good. I ratcheted it up for about 6 or 7 minutes to try to get some power numbers going, but it was hard to do L3, much less threshold. I was at 315 or 320 or so most of the way, but just not getting it done. After a raw score of 336 on the last test, Gros figured my threshold was probably about 317. That's a bit low for me, so I knew if pulling 320 was a problem, this was going to be a bad test.
Eventually I got to the starting point down at the end of Gray's Ford Road and paused for a moment, deciding to try a new method of doing the test. The lights came off since the sun was now up. I zeroed out the Powertap real quick, put up the average power on the "Watts" line, and then hit it, rolling up the false flat.
I started getting pissed at how I felt, pissed at myself for whingeing, pissed that I was being such a fuckin' pussy. No two ways about it. The average power started climbing pretty fast, and I thought about what I needed to set as a goal, maybe that's what I needed to work better, was a goal. So it had to be 350 watts. That would work and would be around 5% higher than my figure from three weeks ago.
As I churned up Grays Ford towards Piney Orchard Parkway, or Patuxent Road or whatever it's called, I thought about a local racer I kind of know in passing, Heidi VonTeity, who was at the time out there in the dark, doing her 24 hour ride to get ready for RAAM. From her writeups, it sounds like she suffers like a pig, and I mean that as a total compliment. But hell, if she can do 24 hours, I can wring myself out for 25 minutes, right? (That's putting a positive spin on what I told myself. The actual inner voice said something about getting chicked. The truth hurts, but it's also motivational sometimes). I also thought about how lucky I am to be riding right now, when my riding was in a bit of doubt all winter and spring, and post-op, how many people would kill to just have a chance to ride. This added a little bit of positive motivation to my steaming, smoldering junk heap of negative energy.
This all went through my mind in the first two minutes and distracted me from the closed up leg problem. Evidently, it was the right combination of motivators, because I looked down and noticed I was pulling an average wattage of around 357. I eased it off just a tiny bit; my legs were burning and the knees were crunchy and everything just hurt, I didn't think I'd be able to maintain that pace. Up a few hills, up up and up to the stop sign and the four way, and I blew through it out into the flats going toward Odenton. I kept a steady grind up.
Oh dear Lord, did it ever burn my legs. I also had this weird lung pain that I think was allergy-related, but I just kept yelling at myself, trying to focus on keeping the power level up. I tried maintaining a good spin for a while, and that worked for a bit. When that stopped, I'd upshift and slide my butt to the back of the FiZik Arione, getting a bit more leverage to mash the crap out of the pedals. When that started to cause my adductors to cramp, I slid forward into the drops, and mashed. After a minute of that, I'd sit up, breathe deep with my hands on the hoods. But I was going now, I didn't need particular motivation, I just needed to not stop, to not ease off.
As I rolled along my power started to dip a bit, the average slipped down slowly, about a half watt per minute up to the turnaround point which was at 12 minutes or so. I kept trying to calculate if I could put in another watt or two of effort and keep it up; the few rises on the course were taking it out of me, with 500 watt efforts to clear them and keep my speed up - not to keep the speed up per se but because slowing down necessitates gear shifting and it's hard to keep up consistent power if you're running up and down through the gears.
At the turnaround, since I can't ride it steady, the level dropped to 346. I started to concede that I wasn't going to hit 350, but thought for a second - "what if I could just keep it here, try to recover really quick on a couple of the little dips, and push it up hard in the last five minutes?"
I focused on 350. The spin was steady. Great big drops of sweat were falling off my nose now, onto the stem and top tube. I was fairly gasping and it felt like there was a burning lump of coal in my right lung. (Stupid allergies...). I kept grinding it, keeping the speed over 25, the average wattage slowly but steadily climbing back up to 350, then past it, to 351. As I came up to 19 minutes, then 19:30, I was shouting at myself internally not to slack, not to let the Monster of Easing Up sneak up on me. "Don't quit. You can hang, asshole!" About 30 seconds out I figured, "I can do *anything* for 30 seconds..." and upshifted twice, and began a big acceleration. By the time I was on top of my pedals, at 90 RPM, I was past the 20 minute mark, about 25 or 28 minutes total into my hard effort. I eased it on up, with 353 showing as the average wattage for the 20 minute effort within the big effort.
Caveat: once again, I'll say it. Impressive numbers if I was 170. Not so much at 80 or a hundred pounds over that since power-to-weight ratio is king. But, as a metric of fitness, this is about 4% off of the strongest I've ever been, and it's a 5% improvement over where I was three weeks ago. Nice. I'm close to having the legs & lungs I need to race cross semi-effectively. As importantly, the mental side is coming together at the right time. When the mind is right, it doesn't take much effort to get it focused on overcoming difficulty. When I'm focused, I'd say the distinguishing feature is that I don't think about much, there's no special motivation needed, for the most part, just an occasional reminder not to slack, coupled with a reminder that I am in fact motivated.
Looks like it's time to double down on the nutrition side.