Race Report: Mt. Tam Hill Climb

Posted 12 Sep 2015

By Adam Naguib

tags: race reports, racing, training, road, data

September 11 2015

- This is not a time trial, it is a race. Time to finish or average power are not the objective, the objective is to place.

For the first 4 miles, do nothing. The only objective for the first 4 miles is to be at the front at the turn-off when the main climb begins. For the next few miles stay with the front group, even if that means doing 500w at times. Just do not stop. Do not let a gap open. During miles 4-8 follow wheels, even if I am feeling good, follow wheels. Just follow wheels. At miles 10-12 attack. It doesn’t matter what group I am in, attack it. Attack the group. If I am alone at any point during the race make sure I do 350 w on any of the inclines; I will be able to keep a high pace this way- power up the hills, rest slightly on the declines of the Seven Sisters.

The above are the notes that I made the night before the 2015 Mount Tamalpais Hill Climb.

Two days before the race (9th September) I performed a lactate threshold (LT) test. A few local inclines make great terrain for this and I managed a 17 minute effort. Not satisfied with this, I did another test the day after (10th September) on another, slightly longer hill which ended up near 23 minutes. Using the LT calculation of 95% of a maximum 20 minute effort (although neither effort was exactly 20 minutes), the apparent LT ends up somewhere just shy of the 330 W mark (If you want to reference yourself, I currently weigh in at 150 lb). The data are tabulated below. So, happy days, but in reality I am not so overly bothered about LT numbers, but more the actual average that I produced on the ~20 minute climbs. I can maintain ~350 W for 20 minutes if I need to. That is why I did the tests. The mental reassurance of knowing that when your watt-thermometer is going nuts in a race and you see silly numbers on there like 380, 395, or numbers starting with a 4 followed by two digits, or even a 5, it is reassuring to know that it is no big deal. The pace will ease up. You won’t be at that intensity forever and in any case, you know that you could average 350 W for 20 minutes if push came to shove. You know that because you have done it. Armed with that knowledge, I wrote my race goals.

September 12 2015

The hill climb is not actually a time trial, but a road race. It’s just that it is only 12.1 miles long and straight up a hill. It’s a famous race with over a 50 year pedigree. The first 4.4 miles take you to the base of the climb. The next 4.4 take you to the top of the relatively steady incline and the final 3.3 miles take you over some horrible undulating terrain (known colloquially as the Seven Sisters) to the finish. Employing the auto-lap function on my Garmin, I set it to 4.4 miles. This created segments of the flat run in, the steady climb, and the final steep roller section. The sections ended up looking as follows:

The flat run in was a total détente. No-one cared and no-one wanted to go fast. The base of the climb saw a pretty big jump at the off which meant that at the very base of the climb I hit 977 W (the jump is represented by both the max peak in Laps 1 and 2 as the jump started just before the auto-lap triggered, immediately at the end of the flat section). A few more jumps occurred but all in all a very civilised ascent. I would look at my head unit periodically and see routine numbers in the 320-350 W range. Based on knowing my capabilities from the previous days' testing, I was pretty happy with all this. That second lap ended up taking a little over 20 minutes and was done at an average 320 W, ~30 W below the multiple efforts at that time and distance that I had achieved in the days previously. At the beginning of the final lap, the race got real. The data display this nicely; my average heart rate for Lap 2 was 181 BPM, compared to 192 for Lap 3. Also, although the average power for lap 3 was only marginally higher than lap 2 (328 vs. 320 W) the normalised power was much greater (353 vs. 334 W). This represented the nature of the final part: attacks, full gas up hill, ease up a little on the down sides of each bump, attack again.

With two other strong riders, after repeated attempts to snap the elastic we broke free with about three miles to go. The final part of the race was attack and counter attack. I was staring at my Garmin seeing the distance marker tick over: 11.7 miles…11.8 miles…11.9 miles. I knew that the line was approaching and with my two break away companions there would be a sprint for the win but I had no idea where the line was. I had tried in vain to organise things the night before to leave work early to get to the area to pre-ride the course but fate conspired against me and this was impossible. Then boom- one of my competitors jumped, I sprang onto his wheel but he had built a 20 ft gap. I chased, holding the gap and edging closer. Then, as we hit a rise, he sits up and raises his arms in victory salute. Just over the bump the secretive finish line then appeared. He’d timed it perfect. I rolled over as runner up 2 seconds later. After the race I asked the winner if he had known the course. Turns out he is a local and those are his training roads.

This race was a great start for Kensington Cycling Club- second place, not bad. Not a large field but some strong competitors. The exercise in preparation for this event was a task aimed at the 2016 season. To tailor training toward the specific race, even if it is only a mental preparation. To prepare mentally before- know the plan and execute (much easier said than done). To build a base of confidence by utilising what I know, based on data, to enhance performance. A step in the right direction and hopefully a precedent for next racing season.