I spent the past weekend at the category 4/5 (mostly 4) team training camp in Borrego Springs.
For those who haven't been out there, Borrego is a small town at the west end of the southern California desert. To get there you drive about 1.75 hours east of San Diego towards Arizona. Borrego is one of the first towns you'll come to once you drop into the desert.
From a team perspective, the goal of the camp was to put some hard work in on the bikes, talk about team goals for the upcoming season and spend some time bonding. From my individual perspective, my goals were the following:
1. Measure how I'm doing with my recovery. At the end of last season I started to feel like I was getting closer to being back to myself. I've been training really hard over the winter and at this point I want to understand whether I can expect to show up at races, get top 5 results, and work towards getting promoted to category 3; or whether I still have a ways to go.
2. Work with the team to set goals that are based upon tangible end points and are achievable.
3. Ride hard and get in some race-like workouts.
4. Show my teammates that I've been working hard and that I can be counted on to deliver the goods this season (assuming goal number 1 worked out well).
We met up in Borrego on Friday evening and got settled at the hotel.
Saturday was to be the biggest, both miles and intensity, day of riding. The goal was to climb Montezuma (about an hour of climbing). Then put in another 50 or so miles of fast riding. Montezuma is something like 12 miles of road that tops out at 8% grade. It varies pretty considerably in steepness with no hint of flattening whatsoever. We ended up putting in around 65 miles of really hard riding for the day.
Sunday was a shorter, but also pretty darn intense. We headed a little ways outside of town to an undeveloped subdivision for some criterium focused riding.
Based upon all the hard work I've put in this winter I was expecting to ride well. I also knew that we'd be climbing Montezuma on the first day and climbing has never been one of my strongest points. When I arrived on Friday night and met the other 19 guys, I looked around the room and it all of a sudden dawned on me that I might be doing well to be 10th over the top of the climb. There are some really strong guys on our team, particularly some 140-150 pound climbers.
As we got started up Montezuma I knew a few things:
1. Climbing at threshold heart rate for 1 hour isn't something I've been doing in my training.
2. An hour of climbing often sucks up just about all the glycogen I've got in my blood stream.
So, I'd laced my water bottles with some dextrose. What I knew for sure was that if I managed my heart rate and didn't let it climb too much past my typical threshold of 183 beats per minute I'd be in good shape.
As we started the climb I got right to the front and started to work pretty hard with the guys that were up there. After 5 minutes they started to tire, so I continued on alone knowing that I needed to not let myself go too hard. The first half hour I was off the front by myself. I knew though that Alcino, our strongest guy, and Doug, another strong rider would probably catch me at one point or another. About half way up I could see that Alcino was starting to gain on me, so I slowed a bit to get my heart rate down from 185, closer to 182. My goal being to catch on to his wheel as he went by and let him pace me as long as I could hang on. In classic Alcino style, not only does the guy make you feel bad by catching up, but he's got his camera hanging off his wrist and he's snapping pictures of the town below (btw - if you want to check out some of Alcino in action, you can check out his youtube page here). So, I'm huffing and puffing at a pretty fast pace, he's breathing pretty calmly, taking pictures and making me suffer as I try to hold on to him. How great it would be to be blessed with his genetics. After a couple minutes of this my heart rate was up around 188, so I quickly abandoned the notion of hanging on Alcino's wheel. A few minutes later Doug did indeed catch me, I managed to pass him back when the road flattened out a bit (only 3% grade now), but once it went back up to 7% I had to let him go as well. From there on out I went as hard as I could manage. In the end I fought off a few guys who were trying to catch up to me, making it to the top 3rd. I couldn't believe it, this was a huge bonus for me as I seriously didn't think that I would be strong enough to put in an effort like this, especially when I'm still 178 pounds.
The rest of Saturday was pretty uneventful. We rode really hard, beat the hell out of each other with attack after attack, and arrived back at the hotel completely drained.
Sunday, went really well for me too. We practiced on a square loop of roads that had a couple power climbs. It was probably 3 miles all the way around. We started it out with a half hour or so of fast moving pace lines. From there we did a couple simulation races of two laps each. The first race I attacked, got bridged by a couple guys and stayed away for a lap or so with them. Then with half a lap to go, I was able to get away with Alcino and lead him out to a solid 1-2 victory. The second race, I broke away after the second corner, worked with a teammate for a lap and then soloed it home for the last half lap.
The bottom line here is that I'm stronger than I thought I was. Most encouraging is that I'm starting to get my ability to accelerate and sprint back. I was able to attack and create gaps whenever I wanted to and I was able to bridge up to attacks when I was called upon. Bottom line is that I'm starting to feel like I'm going to be able to make a real impact this year; both helping my teammates win and getting a few podium results for myself.
Tomorrow I'll post some power data from Saturday's ride.