Sunday, August 8, 2010

Les Arcs 1950 Time Trial

Saturday 7th August 2010

GPSies - Bourg - Arc 1950 Time Trial

Well that was a mistake and a half. Today was supposed to be a day of rest and recuperation, with some swimming to loosen up the body after the really demanding workout yesterday.

There I was, comfortably tucking into a salad in Bourg St Maurice at about 12:50pm when the telephone rang. It was Chris Harrop – who I thought might want to meet up for lunch as he started by asking me where I was. Quickly it transpired that there was some confusion as Chris pointed out that our time trial race was in just over an hour’s time – to which I replied that it was the wrong day – it was tomorrow. A quick check on the documentation proved Chris right! Suddenly a leisurely lunch and afternoon were out of the proverbial window. Wolfing down the food and drink I arranged to meet Chris five minutes later as he arrived in Bourg to give him my license to register me into the race. This would let me dash off back to Aime 15km away to get my bike and stuff for the race. It would be cutting it close but seemed possible. The problem was all the tourists on the road. Instead of a normal traffic flow at 90km/hr they were blocking the road the entire way at 60km/hr so it was a very frustrating journey as the road between the two towns is not safe for overtaking.

On arrival at Aime everything was collected quickly with one sports drink made up and a quick change of clothing into cycling gear. Everything was thrown rapidly in the van and another” hair tearing out” journey back to Bourg followed. Meanwhile Chris called to rendezvous in the Funicular car park on my arrival. Nothhing was forgotten despite the haste and I made it with about 10 minutes to spare. Chris attached my number to the bike while I put the other on my clothing. Then we were off to the start.

That’s where everything slowed down. The organisers were not in a hurry to start and nothing was ready. After a lot of faffing around everyone was ready on the road next to the funicular, which was closed to traffic. There were quite a few photographers and videographers but I have no idea where to find any of that stuff now. I was quite apprehensive as I expected to have very tired legs from the day before and there were a lot of seriously fit racers – with many from Macot cycling club who all looked skinny and ready to climb.

When the race started it set off fast following the lakeside to the South of Bourg and around to the start of the climb up to Les Arcs. By the time we reached the climb the field was already split in two with me at the tail end of the front group and already about 200m gap to the second group. Everybody attacked the stat of the climb hard at around 20km/hr in my case and close to 25km/hr for the very fastest. The question was “Is this pace sustainable?”. To my great surprise it was sustainable and my legs felt fine. Quite a few however did not have the same luck as after about 10 minutes of this there were many who simply had over done it and faded already. I just let my body decide what to do and continued to race. Bourg starts at 800m altitude and by Arcs 1600 I was still overtaking people and felt good. Prior to the race we had discussed nasal breathing and Chris was convinced that at this level of effort – in a hill climb time trail – that nasal breathing was not possible. I wasn’t exactly sure, but so far, despite hovering around the anaerobic heart rate level the entire time, I was having no trouble persisting with nasal breathing. It was at the 17km, 1700m altitude and 1 hour after starting that I first felt my limits. Though I slowed down slightly there was no let up in heart rate (93% max) or effort, it was still up on the edge of the anaerobic zone. There was a brief section of downhill and for me that is not good because it is so difficult to get back into using hard leg power again after a break like that. Despite all of this I kept up speed and heart rate right until the end. In the last 500m I was overtaken by two others (I overtook one) but I had not realised that the end was so close. I thought that there was still quite a serious climb to make so it was necessary to hold back a little. Of course had I known the route better I’d have given it everything for the last 500m and made a better finish.

The nasal breathing was fine for the whole thing. It’s hard to say if it slowed the pace, but it didn’t seem that way. Pace felt like it was controlled more just by strength. I’d stayed in 3rd gear right up until the 17km mark which was when I had to start using 2nd gear and so dropped a bit in pace. It’s the first time this year that I’ve climbed in 3rd so it took more strength than usual but was definitely faster. The previous day I’d done much more climbing but always in 2nd and had thought that was hard at the time! There was no feeling of breathlessness or chest tightness at the finish line which seems to be provoked by hyperventilation – so I’ll stick with the nasal breathing and higher CO2 levels for now.

The following links leads to information and resources of nasal breathing:

Analysis (Click image for larger view)

Statistics Wt 68kg, PB 112/71, HR 43bpm

Interesting to note that the heart rate remains constant over time but the pace slows progressively. Normally the heart rate also drops when the effort is intense, or rises over time when the effort is aerobic. Last year I managed a full climb in the top "anaerobic" zone the whole way 98% max heart rate over 55mins - but I  don't think that would be possible on this climb which is 11km longer.

Chris's previous time for the race was 01:22 which he bettered this year at 01:19. He seemed disappointed, but that is a significant improvement considering the record by elite pro racers is around 01:03. I came in at 01:26 which considering a totally misjudged preparation was a respectable time.

It seems possible that the reason I had recovered well enough so soon from the previous day is due to the nasal breathing. Nasal breathing creates higher CO2 and NO hormonal levels which reduce lactic acid in the blood plus many other free-radical ravages. Yesterday I'd used nasal breathing throughout the 4hr workout.
Today, after the race, about an hour after descending to Bourg, I did have a serious energy dip. This is probably not surprising as regardless of breathing or anything else it is certain from the data that I was well above lactic acid threshold the whole way up the mountain - so there would be a big accumulation of lactic acid and all the reactions that entails. I cracked and went to McDonalds and had a fish burger with fried potatoes! First time this summer.

Had a slightly sore throat in the evening. Not sure if it's from really overdoing it over the last two days - especially with the cold at altitude yesterday - or if it's a slight effect of inhabitual "extreme" nasal breathing. It feels a bit like a bug though. 

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