Biking, Race Reports

Walter Welsh - Tour De Catksills Coaching post mortem

Tour De Catksills race debrief 


Athlete: Walter Welsh 🚴🏻‍♂️

Coach: Cliff Scherb 👨🏻‍💻

……The event was great. I had a lot fun, and I am excited to do it again. It was a great learning experience…..Agree, this is an event where many “light bulbs” went off  and you were able to see more of how to be a competitive cyclsist….  Many lessons, and also identified (or underlined) my key weakness that I need correct…”opportunities!” : ) ………..  The guy who finished 15thwas 40 minutes ahead of me.  I lost at least half of that on Devil’s kitchen, ten minutes in the first hill section, and then ten just being by myself.  I can definitely be right there if I work on some things. …agreed with you.  As we knew going into this the aim was to keep control early so that the major Devils Kitchen climb you would have a bit more gas in the thank. More on this in line to yours below Walt!


Temp was high 70s and direct sun most of the day……not too hot considering this event can see temps well into the upper 80’s and even low 90’s……  I prepped well, but felt even a little dehydrated to start…definitely and opportunity there.  Have to be 100% topped off before you head into battle. Any reason for the dehydration?.....My hr was wicked high all day. I could tell it from when I was standing at the start that it was high.  I think it was a big combination of nerves and sun…..less likely the sun (You ride in the heat and sun all the time ;)  …..nerves and adrenaline absolutely a contributing factor…  On raceday its not uncommon to see heart rate values at least 5-10 beats higher than normal training. In this particular run  in to the event, your total fitness levels “CTL” were not quite as high as we would have wanted, thought there were reasons for training not being able to get done….  A lower level of fitness heading into the event can see higher heart rate values in combination with the other factors. 


First Twenty Miles

This did not go is planned. I burned a big match between about miles 5 and 8….Bummer!  This was the one place as I mentioned would be “low or no value” riding area. Downhill, way above average speed – basically punching a hole in the wind with minimal return!.......  We rolled out of town.  The pace picked up pretty good, but it was comfortable.  My HR was high, but I was not working that hard……tough because it doesn’t feel hard early on with the legs (because you are trained well) ….though internally your heart is “working” very hard and burning carbs at a massive rate….  Around mile five we came down big hill.  All of sudden there was no one around me.  Group of 40 off the front and people slowed up behind me.  I guess there was a pretty big crash. I did not see it, but heard the dude is ok…glad you did not get tangled in that mess!...... Anyways, I stuck in the out in the middle, and I decided to light it up get back to front group….You got antsy… believe you should have waited on this move till later in the day… and likely should have not gone there at all.    I did six minutes at 300 W (350 NP) – but 180 HR….match burnt there for power and heart rate…..  I could not make it back to the main group by myself….Lots of these efforts and long hard pulls you need to get others to help do the work. If you hang yourself out there longer than 60 seconds to catch the lead group you are nuking resources you need for later. Especially given you have a larger frame that you have to carry up the final climbs (Devils Kitchen)--  a group of 12 came by and I was able to get on with them.  My mistake was trying to do it by myself…bingo! Cycling is a sport that you have to be strategic and share the load.  Constantly  checking the ego and letting others work together with you to move forwards.. only very special courses (specifically good for you) and time trialists can survive these types of deep efforts and still be able to ride to the finish. The winners of these types of races have loads of time coasting (low heart rate and power at zero watts) and at the same time very high power output – in fact the highest of any rider on the day.  I should waited and gone with the second group.  I do not think there was a huge penalty for this, but it definitely hurt. ….The weighted cost of higher and longer outputs is very costly the longer the race…

We got back on and cruised to the first hills around mile 20.  This was about thirteen miles.  My power was 150, but so was much heart rate.  ….crazy this all happened before the first hills!  Way too much early on ; ) 


We flew by the first rest stop at mile 18.  I did not even see it. I do not think this was a mistake. I would do it again…..  you got lucky and dogged a bullet there ; ) ……  I still had 1.5 bottles.  I was able to eat a gel.  During the day I ate six gels.  Every 30 to 45 minutes.  And about 15 salt pills. …this was excellent Walt!  Not easy to take in that much when you are flying that fast…


First Hill Section. 

 This killed me.  I did alright, but lost of energy here…you had already been softened up – this put the nail in the coffin!.....  This was peak 60 minute HR by BPM.  And I was really note putting out a lot of power…yes, power was already used up early with VO2 types of efforts and threshold riding.  At this juncture you had spent lots of time (20+minutes)  at 110% of FTP and higher……  My NP was 294. Compare this to my big ride this year and I held 305 NP for and hour with a HR of 153. That was a foggy cool day – still. …true, however the surges are extreme here and if we are going to race more like that we need harder interval efforts like that to support that type of ride in the plan for the future. 


My left hamstring started to cramp up. ( a normal cramp).  To the point that I stopped for 30 seconds to stretch it out. It end up being ok. ….Not uncommon for that style of hard riding.. even with good hydration – whacking the muscles they reacted! ; ) 


Third Section - 

 Next was rollers downhill to the first water break at 49.  I could have used water at mile 30.  Maybe I should have stopped early (if I had seen it).  The firs half of this I was by myself – the second half I was with a group of guys.  Power is low HR is high….A sign that you are running out of resources, core temp is up and heart rate is going up from the hard work. Lucky you didn’t completely cramp up in this seciotn…...  Signs that the wheels are coming off.  Stopped at the rest stop and got water.  Drank a bottle and two for the road. ..yes : )  Much needed and bet your body appreciated that!

Fourth Section – Long ride to bottom of Devil’s Kitchen


This was a lot of work. I just did not have it. I literally recalibrated my power meter because I though it was reading low (it was not – I was just tired)….  At this point, I am toast and just hoping for a miracle on Devils Kitchen – which did not happen. ….you had spent the fuel rods at this point.  All the carbs and fluids are gone..  time to take it up the climb and home ; ) 


Fifth section – Devils kitchen – I exploded.  And walked. It was 100 percent not happening, so I can take solace in that.  And I lot of other people were walking.  I had nothing here. Could not do it.  I think the hour at 171 HR did it to me.  There is really not much else to say here. a coach and cyclist all I can say is been there.  On the one hand its very humbling… on the other hand, how cool is it to know you gave it everything you had!  Pushing you boundaries and finding your limites… only one way to find out and you never know until you go. 


“…Then last seven miles, I limped it IN” 


Take Aways – 


1. I need think  more about hydration.  I actually think today was ok….agreed I think it was better overall and the hydration guidelines you have been following are helping…  I mean, my HR was off the charts to start, and I had plenty of water on board.  I do not think I paid any price based on the amount of water I drank or did not….Somewhat I think… when you are dehydrated heart rate goes up as the body cannot cool itself… cramping is only another byproduct…..  Maybe I will tomorrow (I have been hydrating and salting though and should be in good shape).  ……better now?


2.  I  need to be smart. I should not have burned that match in the first flat section. You were pretty explicit when you told me, and I heard your voice in my head when I did it….. hahahah! : ) Darn, if I had a nickel for every time I have heard this… all good, I kid.  Sometimes in cycling and in racing you just have to learn things for yourself as self-exploration.  In general I need to be smart and always work with someone. .bingo!  That’s is the nature of cycling, live and die b the pack and when you chose to make it move – make it definitive and HARD.


3.  The HR was out of control today.  I wonder what it is…..lack of total fitness levels as I mentioned coupled with a hot and hilly course…… It think nerves and heat.  It is a lot different riding in a pack of riders doing 25mph than poking around by myself in Bedford New York.  Prob need to get in one group ride per week. ..Wednesday night rides can help here, jumping in for that kind of needed intensity…


4.  I need to lose twenty pounds. I do not want to get into a habit of saying this after every event, but this is pretty clearly my path to immediate gains.  My doctor told me to do it.  I want to do it. I am motivated. – so I am going to do it.  I really think I can be competitive here.  At least in the top twenty. …..understood, It is a clear path to instant performance…  or you need to choose courses with much lower elevation profiles.  


Congratulations on the hard day and output.  …You really went for it, learned and got stronger for this. Racing is in fact training and the motor is being “bored out” each time you go to the well like this.  …Recover as hard as you raced and looking forward to our debrief together.  ~Cliff

Biking, Trainer

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