Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's The Fat, Stupid!

So, I think I've figured out yet another reason - perhaps the main reason - why my climbing performance is suffering a little these days.

For those of you (most likely, all one of you - and you know who you are, Dennis!) that have followed my recent posts, you know that I've been just a tad disappointed that my ability to climb a hill has deteriorated in the last couple of months, which happened to coincide with my entry back into the world of bike racing.

"Aha!", you'll say - training for races makes you weaker, right? All those Noon Goon rides and crits and flatter road races have been really bad for you, right? Well, not really, as it might turn out.

This blog entry is a remarkably boring analysis of why you need to watch your diet - especially if you want to keep your racing edge.

So, I was reading Joel Friel's excellent book, "Cycling Past 50" (okay, so I'm 53 and "over-the-hill" - but I can still beat a lot of guys half my age on a road race course!) - and I came across this very interesting tidbit on pages 70-71 (oh, you can buy his book at right here):

"It's been estimated that every extra kilogram of fat (2.2 pounds) adds three seconds in a one-kilometer climb (0.62 miles) on a moderate grade of about 5 percent."


And I was telling my friend, Dennis Pedersen, just the other day, that I thought part of my problem in my recent poor climbing performance was due to the fact that I was about 10 pounds heavier now than when I was at my climbing fitness peak back in mid-July, just before I started getting back into the racing scene., I decided to do the math, to see what effect 10 or 11 pounds might have on climbing my old nemesis, Old La Honda (OLH).

Now, OLH is not a moderate grade of 5 percent - it's a lot meaner - like an average grade of 7.5% - so I decided to give myself a five second penalty for each kilogram of extra fat. I'll justify this value just a little later...

Okay - let's see...11 pounds would be exactly 5 kilograms, so I'll just say I'm 5 kilograms over my mid-July weight (okay - I'll go eat a couple of donuts to make that absolutely true). So my time penalty for those 5 kilograms is about 25 seconds for each kilometer of the climb. Hmmmm.....interesting!

And, OLH is 3.3 miles in length, which is about 5 kilometers (actually, closer to 5.5, but we'll just use 5 kilometers).

So, 25 seconds for each of those 5 kilometers gives me a time penalty of ... 125 seconds, or about 2 minutes!

Now, I recently did OLH in 27:02, as you all know - but I told Dennis that I thought this was a poor representation of the actual baseline for me right now - I went out way too hard on that ITT up OLH (remember - I got to the halfway point in just 11:45, which was only 10 seconds slower than my halfway point on my PB time of 23:18 - and you can see the data for that PB ride right here - the PB climb is the data associated with Lap 2). I lost about 4 minutes in that second half of the OLH climb.

So......I told Dennis that my most probable time for OLH right now would be 25 minutes, about 2 minutes slower than my PB time earlier this year.

And now, I have some evidence to suggest where those 2 minutes got lost - not so much in my legs (which I always thought made some sense, but it's not like I haven't been using my legs for the last few months!) - it sounds like those 2 minutes are buried in the extra fat rolling around my tummy!

If you subtract off that 2 minutes from my likely time of 25 minutes for OLH right now (where I pace myself appropriately for the entire climb), you get a magic time of about 23 minutes!

Oh, remember I said I could justify that value of 5 seconds per kilogram of extra fat? Well, in my interest of trying to be accurate (and fair) to myself, I did a little more research and found this interesting tidbit on Wikipedia:

"The formula for power suggests that 1 lb. saved is worth 0.06 mph (0.1 km/h) on a 7% grade"

You can find this little gem right here, if you want to read all the details.

Well, OLH is about 7% - and this means my extra 10 pounds would slow me down by 0.6 mph for the climb. For that 3.22 mile climb, if you use my average speed for my PB (8.3 mph) and subtract 0.6 mph, you get 7.7 mph - and if you then re-calculate what my time would be doing that climb at 7.7 mph, you get a time of 25:06 - about 2 minutes slower than my PB time of 23:18 !!

So, as you can see, my use of 5 seconds / kilogram for the time penalty on OLH is quite justified - and is probably fairly accurate, too...

And just what does this all mean?

Wooohoooo!! This means that all I have to do is lose those 10 or 11 pounds and I'll probably be able to match my PB time up OLH back on August 1.

Oh - and those two donuts I told you I'd eat? Uh, no way, Charlie - it's veggies and water for me, until I get back to my old climbing weight... :)

Okay, so now I don't feel so bad - it's the fat, stupid!

1 comment:

Jr. Curmudgeon said...

If you have a scale that shows you your percentage of body fat take that percentage and multiply it into your total body weight to calculate the pounds of body fat you’re carrying around. Example: 183lbs X 19%= 34.77lbs. (my weight and fat). I would like to weigh 170lbs which is 13lbs pounds difference. If I could achieve my goal (no more chips & salsa and margaritas!), I would have a body fat percentage of right around 13%