Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hypothesis #1

Since IMCDA, I've been thinking more about crank length. Bree initially put this idea in my head because she recently learned that she is riding too long of a crank (172.5), thus explaining why she can't spin and why she struggles to run off the bike. During my sabbatical, I trained a lot with Bree and we came to realize that we are twins when it comes to triathlons. We have identical bodies (well almost), both of us standing 5'5", with long torsos and stumpy legs. We can't spin to save our lives and for some darn reason, we struggle to run off the bike. During our training runs, we would do 13-milers averaging 7-minute pace and often finishing the last 2-3 miles holding 6-minute and sometimes sub 6-minute pace. Yet, we struggled to carry this running speed off the bike in our races. She is now running a shorter crank length (167 or so) and it seems to be making a difference.

This year, I've been training almost exclusively (about 90% of my rides) on my road bike, because not only does it feel better, but it is better suited for Oakland/Berkeley riding, where you are either going up or down, never flat. Also, I just seem to ride better on the road bike. I would say that I've been on my tri bike for a total of 15 times this season. I've been operating under the impression that the crank length on my road bike is the same as my tri bike, 172.5. I just checked my road bike to learn that I was indeed wrong, the cranks on my road bike are 170. And thus we have hypothesis #1 as to why I've been having "off" bike legs this season.

Last year, I trained exclusively on my tri bike because I was traveling and I could only bring one bike with me. I was training and racing on the same cranks, thus come race day, my legs felt no difference. On those cranks, I rode to a 5:30 time at IMOZ (even with my disastrous pacing plan and bonking) and a 5:22 at the full Vineman. And both times, as in my previous ironman races, I struggled to run off the bike. This year, I've been training on 170 cranks, but come race day, my legs are trying to turn over 172.5 cranks. I'm pacing myself for 5:22-5:30 bike splits like I've done in the past, but on longer cranks than what I've been accustomed to in training, just enough of a difference to cause my slightly off, and inexplicable bike mishaps this year. I think this is why as the ride went on, I got more and more fatigued at IMCDA even though I started at the proper pace and I had no nutritional/GI problems.

Since IMCDA, I've had many people tell me that I'm overtrained and that's why I had a bad race. I am positive I am not overtrained. I've just had some inexplicable problems on the bike this season, and this in turn, made me lose confidence in my training program, my ability, and my mental fortitude. All this makes me realize how interwoven things are when it comes to training, racing, and equipment. My equipment affected my training, which in turn affected my racing, and finally played on my psyche.

I don't know if this is truly the answer. I know that as with injuries, the causes of a bad race is a bit of a mystery and it's a bit of trial and error when it comes to finding solutions. But I have a start, and it's time to figure out this crank length thing. I can either train exclusively on my 172.5 cranks in prep for IM Canada or swap out for 170 cranks. I'm inclined to do the latter because though I'll be training my legs to ride 172.5 cranks, it doesn't resolve, the issue of running off the bike. If I drop down to 170 cranks, I'll be able to spin more, and hopefully have fresher legs off the bike for the run. Like I said, this is hypothesis #1. But more importantly, KNOW YOUR GEAR!

8 comments:

Michelle Simmons said...

Fwiw, my cranks are 170 and I run better off the bike than I do open running! Of course, I have never been a "runner" so that probably plays a part in my lack of ability to run an open marathon... have you been retuled? That made a big difference for me this year too (I was fit by the same guy Bree got fit by). I also do just about 100% of my training on my TT bike, and much of it is rather flat which I actually think is good b/c it forces me to train with fewer 'breaks' on downhills. I can go to hills and do repeats for my hill/strength training.

I don't think you're overtrained. I'm less and less a believer in 'overtraining' as I trained WAY more this year than I ever have and, well, my racing reflects it. I'm sure there's a tipping point there somewhere but I think as long as the majority of your training is aerobic, you can do a shit load of it day after day after day... and you'll know when you're close to the edge. I think I was only there once this year and all it took was 2-3 easier/shorter days and I was back.

jennifer said...

Wow... I'm 5'8" and ride 172.5's. And the guy who did my bike fit last actually recommended I go down slightly, but I didn't think it was worth it. Ditto Michelle's comment... have you gotten a good fit? 170 may even be too long. I think you're on to something!

Matt said...

I would say 165's - 167.5's would be a great fit for ya but remember to adjust your bike.. But also other thing as Mr Sutton talks lots about is your bike, train on the bike you race on.. Just some food fo thought :) Oh, I ride 170's and I am 5'8, i wasn't so nervous about playing with my fit I would go to 165's. The shorter crank thing has many roles from the fitting end to , economy, as well as injury prevention.

Molly said...

Sounds like you have some good ideas and time to make the needed changes! I do all my training on the same bike I race on so that helps figure it out sooner...even if it makes it harder on these Bay Area hills. I don't think it sounds like you're overtrained either, I think you have a pretty good handle on what your body needs to be race-ready. I'm sure you'll have it all together for Canada!

Jill Costantino said...

I would go with your idea - it sounds good!

Beth said...

All this talk about crank length had me measuring my cranks at 4:30 this morning, curious as to what I was riding! (but first I had to google crank length because I didn't have much of an idea of what you all were talking about!!) Turns out I ride 165s which may explain why I'm a spinner? Oh do I love to spin! (or maybe that's because I lack the strength to push big gears :) Also, I'm about an inch shorter than you. Either way, hope you get it all figured out and find the best solution!!

Libby said...

sounds like a great hypothesis!! I ride 170's as well. good thinking. I like where this is going....

mtanner said...

Of course last night reading this I was like ? wonder what mine are? I'm 5'5 too. I asked Bill as me= clueless and he said 172.5 I was like WTF no wonder. I must change them. = No sleep!
Then emailed coach this morning who built my bike from the ground and he was like 170. Phew. Just do it already!