Had an opportunity to ride with my coach yesterday. He was along to help evaluate my sprint. I really appreciated him coming out especially since he was a bit under the weather.
Speaking of weather, it was beautiful! The temperature was in the upper 50s and the sun was shining warmly. It was a bit breezy, but nothing like Monday!
I really wanted to impress him. He has said that since we have started this relationship he has been surprised by two things – 1) my leg speed, and 2) my potential to be an adequate sprinter. What I mean by adequate is that it certainly will never be my strength, but that I might surprise a few people if the situation was right. In our session, I wanted to give him more reasons to believe!
My first mistake was that before leaving the office I stopped by the coffee shop and got a rather strong brew of Pumpkin Spice coffee. I was nursing it as I rushed home to change and then headed to Cleveland Park. I took one more swig before hopping on the bike.
During the warm up I felt just fine. Then it was time for me to do 6 x 8 second all out sprints with a 4 to 5 minute recovery between each. We came into the straight where I was to launch and then I attacked.
Right off the bat I felt very sluggish. Jim had told me to start out at a higher cadence than normal and then shift into the harder gears as I got my leg speed up. There were a lot of things to think about with my form, cadence, and time. I didn’t feel focused at all and when I looked down at my meter near the end of the sprint I saw the low number of 888 for my power. Yuck!
Turns out I didn’t impress Jim at all! First, I had gone the entire time with my hands on the hoods. Second, I was leaning too far forward. Third, I started in too easy of a gear. Fourth, I shifted too soon. I’m sure there were more problems, but I can’t recall them at the moment.
Here’s the deal – other than the starting out in too easy of a gear, this is how I have always sprinted. Typically, I put it in the hardest gear I can and spin it out. What I learned in my session is that my typical way of sprinting might produce a peak of 1300+ watts, but it also means I can’t hold it and I begin to bog down.
So, it was back to the drawing board for the following sprints. I tried varying cadences and positions on the bike. Finally, I was in the drops, learning to have a neutral spine, keeping my rear near the seat, and shifting properly. I might not have been going very fast, but at least I was starting to look more like a sprinter!
About the third attempt it hit me. I started to feel very sick to my stomach. I knew my heart rate was no where near maxing and the efforts, though intense, were very short. Why was this happening? I even started to get stitches — which I haven’t had in a year or so.
All this — the stomach, the numerous things to consider as I sprinted, and the seeming low output on the wattage — had me reeling and I was pretty frustrated. Jim then had to go and I was left to do the remaining 45 minutes or so by myself. As I continued the cool down I got slower and slower as my stomach felt worse and worse. I kept drinking water hoping it would help clear things up.
Finally, toward the end I started to feel better. Looking back, I’m certain it was the coffee. Besides being strong I don’t typically drink coffee that soon before I ride like that. Another lesson learned!
Toward the end of the ride I was stopped by a LowCadence.com reader. He talked of how he had started out climbing Paris Mountain in a triple in 18 minutes and now he has graduated to a compact gear and is down to 14+ minutes! The thing I needed to hear at that point was that this blog had been an encouragement to him. Suddenly, my stomach was feeling really good!
At home I took a look at the data and it actually wasn’t as bad as I was feeling. My max wattage for the session was 1374 watts. That is just short of my desired 1400. None of the attempts registered a max below 1000 with most being between 1200 and 1300.
So, the bad news is that I have dent in my sprint. I’m technically a mess with form and technique. I am not comfortable doing things right because I have had bad habits for some time.
The good news is that with Jim Cunningham as my dent remover, I have potential to see some good improvement in this area of my riding. When I finally train myself to sprint like I am supposed to, I think I’ll feel much more confident in the races this year where we’re all putting the hammer down for the line. Wow… me as a sprinter! I’m starting to feel more sexy already!