Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Final look back on 2016

2016 is closing up. I hope everyone had an exceptional Christmas / Holidays, and I hope you all have a safe and fun New Years. We kind of got hosed this year, as both fall on the weekend, so no extra days off... what a bummer.

I got all I wanted for Christmas (which was basically just to survive it!) and my lovely wife even got me a sweet viking ale horn and a GCN hoodie!!

working on my Ragnar

What a keeper!

So, as I usually do, I thought I'd rustle back through my year and reflect on how things have gone.

First and foremost, I got hitched, something for most of my life I was pretty sure would never happen. As we close in on our first anniversary I am happy to say I am glad I was wrong. I would guess one of my biggest changes for the better this season came from my wife always being in my corner.

That said, the season has been rocky from a results standpoint. I made little secret that I wanted to primarily focus on the State TT in 2016. I had just built my Speed Concept and was very slowly making the transition from being a coached triathlete to a self coached cyclist. My first "knock the bugs out" tune up race was a fairly frosty Taco Mama TT in Alabama. I will say, for the first 5 minutes of that race I felt really good. Unfortunately disaster struck and I ended up spending about an hour or so on the side of the road with a flat. A long drive for a couple minutes action and some frostbite for sure.

The Knoxvelo TT training series was my next outing to test my fitness. I was experimenting with a 1x setup on my Cervelo, but a 44T big ring turned out to be too small for the rolling terrain and I was left floundering for the right setup. I was still hopeful of good things and I had my Trek tuned and ready for big results.

My next debacle was in May at the Three Rivers Rumble TT. A 2'ish mile TT, the course suited me pretty well, as being aero and short bursts were going to reward the rider. There I was, putting on my skinsuit in a leisurely fashion when I heard my name being shouted. I totally missed my start. I still managed a fair time, but what a disappointment. Worse than that, in the excitement I had forgot to turn on my Powertap... leaving me once again with no meaningful data to examine as States was fast approaching.

As far as preparing for a race goes... I feel like my preparation  for States was among the best I've ever had going into a race. All except for my actual training. Looking back at my logs, I see how much the "fear" of overtraining again and being a slave to my HRV rating really sabotaged my race. I was willing to invest incredible amounts of time to squeaking out every minute advantage, but wasn't willing to stick my body back on the line and do the kind of training that is required to really have a successful 40k. It's almost laughable that I was tapering from a weekly TSS that's about 1/3 what my current week in week out TSS is. That's a classic example of letting fear rule you.

Nonetheless, the perfect storm of turning the race into a trainwreck didn't happen until the night before. It was then that I learned I was starting 30" down on Matt, who I knew was the strongest guy there. It made my pacing strategy completely pointless. Just go fast enough to keep Matt in your sights and you'll win. Simple, but not easy by any stretch.

The day of the race was blisteringly hot, and everyone was pretty miserable. I followed my race "plan" in that I tried to keep Matt in my sights. It worked out fairly well the first half of the race, although every time I looked at my computer I knew I was going to start fading... my hope was so would everyone due to the temperatures. At the turnaround I hit the wall, hard. Later, after downloading my data and analyzing it you could see a textbook application of going out way too hard. The first 20 minutes I was doing great, the second 20 minutes I was fading, but only slightly below my target, and the third 20 minutes I was pretty much soft pedaling back home. Looking back, had just paced myself and raced my own race, I would have likely snagged a podium spot. Instead I finished deep in the field, being passed by many guys who I hadn't seen since the first couple of miles. I don't regret my choice... I knew what I had to do to win and went for it. It didn't work out, but that doesn't make it a foolish decision. Beating Matt would have required a special day no matter what. It really boiled down to the fact that I hadn't put in the hard miles to put out the watts required for a fast time.

After that race I took a break and did some soul searching. I was probably the closest I've ever come to hanging up my racing bibs. I had gotten through my battle with OTS, but I hadn't bounced back like I had expected to, and so I had to decide whether to take steps towards improvement or whether my competitive racing was behind me. It was around then I had my blood work done and that helped to ensure me that I wasn't made of cheap glass, and that I could do some real training once more.

At that point I had to find a coach. I was simply too invested and in my own head to have a rational, disconnected look at what kind of training load I could and couldn't handle. After a thorough search, I finally made my choice with Derek Dalzell of Mind Right Endurance. I chose Derek because he had a couple of things I was looking for in a coach... a technical, data driven outlook, experience with cyclists (and not just triathletes) and perhaps most importantly to me, he seemed hungry to do big things with his clients, and didn't seem satisfied to just load in trainingpeaks workouts every week and just let things fall where they may.

My final road race was the Oak Ridge Velo RR and TT. Neither result was very exciting, but they were both races that I felt like I was making progress in. I finished 5th in the TT, and felt like it was probably the best executed race I've ever done.

Since then, I've tried a lot of new things and really opened up my eyes and excitement towards cycling. I truly feel like a kid every time I step onto a velodrome, something I hadn't felt in years. Cyclocross has been hit or miss as far as racing goes, but I have really enjoyed taking a bike (with drop bars) off road.

Perhaps most importantly, I'm ending this year feeling good. Refreshed and excited for what 2017 will have in store. I am still a work in progress, but I am again finding satisfaction in ticking off the menial boxes... a finished workout today, a long ride in the books this weekend... something I had lost in the last few years. That isn't to say there are no big goals on the horizon, quite the opposite, but I have grown as a person enough to realize that it's best not to hinge all the satisfaction on the end results, but take some joy just from the trip to get to the start line.

Sermon is over. I'll see you all in 2017! Stay safe, have fun. Until next time! Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

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