A Couple of Solid Days on the Trails

At the end of July, Sam Dolzani strung together some big rides split by two weeks. First up was the Laramie Enduro on July 28th, where he took the win. Second was the Steamboat Stinger on August 11th, where he took fourth. What we’ve got here is two days, in relatively close proximity (in the scope of the whole season), of similar effort and both strong performances. We thought it might be interesting to line up the data next to each other, see the similarities and differences, and talk a bit about how we bridged the gap between the two races to keep the engine running hot.

Let’s jump into the data dump!

Laramie Enduro – July 28th – 1st

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  • On race day, CTL of 89, ATL of 117, TSB of 0.

  • Average elevation of 2562m, maximum elevation of 2700m – so there were never any moments of being significantly high and significantly low, within the day.

  • 4:55 race time, 233w average, 277w normalized power, 4113 kJ, 1.19VI.

  • Peak 20min was 298NP, peak 2hour was 296NP.

  • 32 min was spent at 370-450 watts, 17min  was spent over 450 watts.

First thing that jumps out from this is how close the peak 20min and peak 2hour normalized powers were. The peak 20min is relative low, considering Sam’s 20min PR for the year is 370w. However you can see he hardly backs off the pace at all, as the peak 2hour was nearly the same NP. It just shows how much this race came down to not necessarily being super strong at one given moment, but being really constant through the day. Let’s keep that on the back burner for now.

Overall the data is pretty reflective of what we see a lot of times from these endurance MTB races - +/- 1.2 VI, fairly constant effort, and still a large volume of high intensity moments. 17 min total through the day at 450+ watts, shows that these aren’t strictly low intensity affairs. The file might show a pretty sub-max effort on the average, but a closer look shows that the nature of riding trail dictates frequent moments of high intensity – they might be short, but they amount to a significant toll and need to be prepared for.

Steamboat Stinger – August 11th – 4th

  • On race day CTL of 90, ATL 108, TSB of +8.

  • Average elevation of 2189m, maximum of 2381m (similar, tight band to Laramie).

  • 4:14 race time, 232w average, 279w normalized power, 3524 kJ, 1.2 VI.

  • Peak 20min 344NP, peak 2h 298NP.

  • 30min spent at 370-450w, 13min spent at 450+ watts.

So in a lot of ways these races are really similar, near identical average and normalized power – which then translates to a pretty similar rate of work. That said, this race had a bit more polarization in terms of the moments of hard work – that really shows up in the gap between the peak 20min at peak 2h powers. At Laramie there was hardly any gap, so the effort was pretty constant, one 20min chunk may have looked pretty similar to another 20min chunk. However here, we have a peak 20min of 344 NP and a peak 2h of 298NP, so a much more significant gap. What’s the cause there? Simply terrain. Both are quite hilly courses, but Laramie was pretty constantly oscillating up and down, so the moments of sustained effort were short, and didn’t amount to a significant difference among 20min segments. However, the Stinger course is really broken down into 2x 30min climbs, each lap – times two laps. So rather than pretty constant effort throughout, Sam had 20-30 min chunks of high power, followed by 20-30 min chunks of relatively low power. An interesting note is that while power was pretty polarized, HR would have stayed relatively constant. Descending on the MTB ain’t necessarily recovery! HR can be a much better measure of the internal metabolic stress through the day because of this, compared to just looking at the mechanical (power) output kilojoules.

Bridging the Gap

Two races, two weeks apart, two pretty similar performances by the numbers, simple right? Well, not necessarily, consistency is something we’re often chasing as athletes and coaches – and it can prove pretty damn elusive. So it actually feels pretty good to catch it, even if just for a short period.

What did we do between the two races, to keep the form, and also the mental capacity to go to the well? CTL was near identical, which shows that we didn’t have any huge drop in the workload of training – Sam was still putting in some real effort.

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Here’s the two weeks between Laramie and Stinger. Sam had four days of proper effort in the period (not counting Stinger), and the rest was simply time on the bike with two purposes – general endurance without thinking about it, and true recovery. It may seem like between two big races, racing more is the last thing we’d want Sam to do. However, this period was all about keeping the intensity familiar, keeping the fitness up, but without going to the well too much mentally. Sam really enjoys racing, so by jumping into a couple races that he doesn’t have much pressure on he keep the fitness up, without dragging himself through a set of intervals on his own. So we had him race the weeknight short track, and the local XC race – these totally served the purpose. That said, this is where it does really come down to athlete individuality in our opinion. If the goal is to be fit, but also fresh mentally – one athlete may feel a lot more drag and strain doing a workout, so racing is a good choice for them, while another athlete may feel that a race just really wears them out with the competition, the travel, and the maximum effort – doing a workout that hits the same physical goal is probably a better choice for that athlete.

Now is the time for the clever rhetoric and the bow out. Mic drop. Thanks for reading!