Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I'm beginning a new training block today. Actually, it began yesterday, but it started with a day off, so it doesn't really feel like it's started.

At the end of last season, I identified two main (physical) weaknesses in my racing. The first was that I couldn't develop sufficient power on flat open sections. After my test day last weekend, I'm feeling pretty confident that I'm doing the right things to improve this area.

The second weakness is technical mountain biking skills. I don't think this is as big of a weakness as my power issue, but maybe it's just not as obvious when I'm getting shelled in the singletrack as it is out in the open. I think I'm going to start putting in some of my longer rides in on the trail, even if they are supposed to be LSD-type rides, I'll just have to take it easy on the climbs.

I spent about half an hour tonight in the driveway working on trackstands and wheelies. I'm sure the neighbors were impressed. Anyway, it was pretty fun.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Test Day

I performed my lactate threshold field test this morning. It was a 30 minute time trial (distance trial?) , where I took my average HR for the last 20 minutes as an estimate of my LT.

It was certainly a hard effort, but I felt like I paced myself pretty well. I felt pretty good for the first 10 minutes, and was able to ride the gear that I figured I could manage for the whole TT. My legs started to get a bit tired in the second set of 10 minutes, and I took a few "breaks" in the next gear down when I felt I needed them, but generally it was also good. The last 10 minute section was pretty tough. My legs were definitely tired at this point and my "breaks" got longer and more frequent. I did gut out a hard sprint for the last 30 seconds (actually, it was only about 25 seconds, I really hit the wall with about 5 seconds to go) and was totally spent afterward.

So, I am pleased with my effort, and the numbers are what they are. The main point here was to establish a baseline and I think I put in a good effort that did that. I'm pretty tired now this afternoon, very much like I am after a real race. Tomorrow is a relatively easy day, and then I'm on to the next training block.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Rest Week

This week is a rest and recovery week for me. It probably came at a good time. I've been very busy with work this past week or so, and my motivation for training was starting to drop off just a bit. After one full day off and another very light day, I'm feeling pretty good again and fired up to train.

I've scheduled a lactate threshold field test for Saturday. I'm going to do a 30 minute time trial and take average HR and power over the last 20 minutes to approximate my threshold. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I'm kind of excited to do the test and establish a baseline. On the other hand, it will be a pretty long, hard effort, and I can't say I'm really thrilled about pushing through it.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Training Tools

As I mentioned last time, I've started using some new training tools. I got a fairly low-end heart rate monitor, and the power computer for my Kurt Kinetic trainer. The power computer is simply a normal bike computer that has been calibrated with the expected resistance curve of the trainer. It's probably not particularly accurate, but I expect that it should be repeatable, which is really all I'm after at the moment.

Anyway, I've been using these two tools for about a week. Basically, all I've done so far is to record data on my rides, I haven't tried to use them to set my intensity level. What I've learned over the course of the week (three rides, two inside, one outside) is that my intensity is all over the map!

The first ride I recorded data for this week was on Wednesday. This was a trainer ride done using my normal gearing and what I believed to be my normal cadence. It felt fairly easy, which I attributed to my new, clean chain and cassette. I recorded an average power of 124 Watts and an average HR of 127 bpm. On Saturday, I did the same trainer ride as I did on Wednesday, again, using the same gears and what I thought was the same cadence. This time, it felt noticeably harder. Afterward, looking at the data showed me why. This time, my average power was 142 Watts (pretty massive, I know ;) ) and my average HR was 139 bpm. On average, I put down 18 Watts more on Saturday than I did on Wednesday, so no wonder it felt harder, it was!

Today I rode outside, so no "power" information, but I did wear my HRM. Again, I tried to keep the same intensity, but since it was outside, I used a much wider variety of gears (also, I tend to speed up when I ride in traffic). This time, my average HR was 150 bpm. So, did I ride harder still today? Probably, but riding outside throws in a lot of other variables.

I guess the point I'm making is that I'm apparantly pretty bad at judging my effort. I suppose others are also, and that's why HRM's and power meters are around.

This upcoming week is a recovery week, and I plan to do a LT field test near the end. That should help me at least get a start in better judging my intensity levels. Should be interesting.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

New Toys

I ended up having to take a partial day off this Tuesday due to work issues. I got my pre-work core exercise session in Tuesday morning, but I wound up getting home from work around 7:45pm that night, so I scrapped my evening workout and just relaxed for a little while before bed. Yesterday was back to a normal schedule, so I got a chance to play with some of my new toys.

For Christmas, my parents got me some new wheels and cassette for my road bike (which is on the trainer). Last night I finally put them on the bike, along with a new chain. During my ride, I used the same gears I usually use, but it felt considerably easier. Either the extra day off really helped me, or my old chain and cassette were a lot dirtier than I thought. I'm leaning toward the chain.

I bought this bike used off of ebay last year. The previous owner seemed to have done a good job keeping the chain oiled, but apparently didn't realize that you're also supposed to clean it. The result was that the drivetrain had accumulated a tremendous amount of gunk (that's the technical term). I cleaned it pretty well when I got it, but it was so dirty to start with that it never got truly clean. The new cassette and chain are a definite improvement.

Also, there doesn't appear to be any issue using the Shimano cassette with my Campagnolo derailleur.

The two things I really meant to talk about were my new heart rate monitor and "power meter". I didn't intend for this to be a really long post, so I'll save that discussion for another time.

I think I'm going to do some kind of cross-training tonight instead of a trainer ride...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Future State Champion

After the cyclocross race I did in Monroe last year, where I was psychologically defeated very early on, I started becoming interested in the mental aspect of racing and training. I bought a book on the topic,The Mental Edge by Kenneth Baum. I've been working through some of the exercises in the book, and while they seemed kind of corny on the first read, I think they are working.

One of the first things he has you do is come up with a "Desire Statement". As I interpreted it, this is a long-term goal or desire. He has you write it down multiple times per day for a number of days to really let it sink in. I initially had trouble coming up with something. I had a few ideas, but when I wrote them down, I found that they either weren't specific enough to give me a real target or that they didn't inspire me. I have come to believe that the inspiration part is critical. This is what is going to get you fired up to train on days when you don't feel like it.

The desire statement I came up with is this: "I want to win a Michigan state championship mountain bike race." Considering my current level, this is a really big stretch. On the other hand, it's very specific, and it gets me fired up. Will it ever happen? I don't know, but it's not totally outside the realm of possibility.

I developed this desire statement at the end of last November, and I think it is already making a difference. The main thing I've noticed is that I think about myself as a bike racer differently. The best way to describe it is that I don't see my current level in an isolated way anymore. I now think of where I am as a stopping off point on a path that eventually takes me to where I want to be. I think, ultimately, this should help me deal with the disappointments and setbacks I will inevitably face; hopefully I'll be able to see them relative to the "big picture" and they won't seem so bad. The real test for all of this will be when I start racing again this year and get faced with reality, but for now, my motivation and confidence levels are very high.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Week 2 Recap

Looks like I need to up my posting frequency. Two posts per week is kind of lame.

I had a pretty good week this past week. After I posted about my slow warmups on Thursday, my legs started coming around more quickly. I'm still not sure exactly what the issue was, but it seems to have resolved itself. I took advantage of a couple of nice days of weather to ride outside, but the cold temperatures have returned for the weekend, so it's going to take more layers and more willpower to get outside.

I feel like I've hit a pretty good workload for these first two weeks. Both weeks, I've felt pretty good all week until Sunday, when I've been just a little fatigued during my workouts. Since Monday is a day off, I think this is good timing (at least, as long as I'm back to normal on Tuesday).

Thursday, January 12, 2006


The unusually warm weather continued here today. I did my ride outside again tonight, it was about 45F when I started. Not bad at all. I could use a little more daylight though, the last 20 minutes or so were pretty dark. I guess that's what lights are for.

I've been noticing that it seems to take my legs quite a while to warm up during my rides this year (either inside or outside). It was a good 20 minutes or so into my trainer session last night before they felt good, and about the same tonight. I don't know if it's a side-effect from my time off in December or what, but I don't remember it taking so long last year. I guess I'll just keep an eye on it and see how it progresses.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

First Week Recap

I felt like things went pretty well for my first week back. I felt pretty good during all of my workouts this week, except for today. I fatigued pretty quickly during my strength workout this morning. I'm not sure if I just went too hard this week, didn't eat or drink enough this morning or what. Tomorrow is supposed to be a day off, so I'll take it easy as planned, and we'll see how things go on Tuesday.

Anyway, this afternoon, I decided to do my ride outside. We actually saw the sun today, so it was a nice change of pace.

It turned out to be a bit colder than I thought, I wish I had worn something over my ears.

Nothing really too interesting happened during the ride. I hit a little patch of ice on a dirt road, it must have been in the shade today, and the rear tire slipped a bit, but it didn't cause me any problems. My legs felt good during the ride, which was nice after not feeling so hot this morning.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Winter Training Seminar

I spent most of the afternoon today at a training seminar put on by Terry Ritter, a local USA Cycling expert level coach. (Sorry, he doesn't have a website.) I had expected that I would be familiar with most of the information, from reading the Friel and Morris books, and it turned out that this was largely true. However, also knowing that I'm no training expert, I expected to learn quite a bit, I just wasn't sure what it would be. It turned out that this was also true.

So, some highlights of the new stuff I learned:

1. One of the main themes in the seminar was to work on your aerobic system. True, there are gains to be made by working on the anaerobic systems, but mountain biking is still primarily an aerobic sport. Note that, in this case, Terry also considers threshold intervals done to increase LT to be working on your aerobic system.

2. Terry hit the topic of testing pretty hard. He is a big fan of testing frequently to A) help sustain training conviction and B) to help assure that the training is working. Again, there's nothing new here, but testing is something I haven't done in the past, and I think that needs to change if I want to get serious about going faster.

3. Terry made an off-handed comment about most beginners, especially light riders, tending to use tire pressures that are too high. Since I fit this description, maybe I'll go out and do some more experimenting with this once the ground gets to be a bit more representative of race conditions (which won't be for a few months still). I know I do tend to err on the side of too much pressure rather than too little.

4. Tapering. OK, so I'm familiar with this concept already. That being said, since I'm still pretty new to this whole race thing, I was not planning on doing a taper or race phases this year. I figured it would be better to continue building fitness and not worry too much about race results. While this logic makes sense, Terry changed my mind on the soundness of my plan. One of the points he made was that the purpose of tapering is not only to achieve peak race fitness, it also serves to unload physical and mental training stresses put on the body up to that point. Ultimately, I think that this unloading will be beneficial to me, so I'm going to re-adjust my plan.

5. The nice thing about working with a local coach is that he understands the conditions that we have to deal with. For example, in Michigan, the weather doesn't tend to be conducive to riding from sometime in December to sometime in March or April (about a third of the year!). Granted some people do ride outside, but it's tough to do it consistently. Anyway, considering this, Terry is a big proponent of using indoor trainers (even in the summer, which surprised me). We spent a lot of time talking about how to make riding trainers more tolerable. It's not a big deal for me right now, as cross-training is still appropriate at this time of year, but it will start to become a bigger deal in the next few months. Either that, or I'll just have to get used to riding in the cold and snow!

OK, I guess that's enough for now. Once you start getting past 5, they sort of cease to become "highlights". All considered, this was a good seminar for me to attend. It's made me think a bit more about what I'm doing now and what I need to do if I'm committed to going faster.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

So that's what the charger is for

My workout plan for today called for mainly off-the-bike training, but also a short aerobic session. I did the off-bike workout after I got home from work. There's no snow on the ground right now and it's "only" about 35F outside, so I decided to do my aerobic work outside on my bike. But, by 6pm, it's pretty dark.

No problem, that's what my lights are for! Hmm, when was the last time I charged the headlight battery? Well, the last time I used the light was Halloween, and I hadn't charged it since (and it probably wasn't fully charged before). But, hey, I was just planning a quick ride, and the light seemed pretty bright when I checked it in the garage.

So, off I go, and the headlight was working great... for about two minutes. At that point, I noticed that the road seemed unusually dark. Then I noticed that my headlight wasn't throwing off much light in front of me. I stuck my hand in front of the light, it showed just a little orange circle. Not good, time to head home. As I turned back to go home, my light was totally gone. Fortunately, I still had my taillight (which was working fine) and was wearing a bright green jacket, so I wasn't overly concerned about being seen, but it still wasn't a good situation. Drivers in Michigan aren't exactly used to seeing bikes at night in January. Anyway, I got home without any drama, and I finished my ride on the trainer.

Next time I'll make sure I charge my battery before a night ride.

Stupid Grip Trick

I put some new grips on my mountain bike the other day. I had read somewhere that you can use "water or rubbing alcohol" to help slide the grip on. I took that to mean that they worked about the same. Well, they don't!

I finally tried the rubbing alcohol the other day. What a difference! It took me about 2 minutes to put both grips on this way. The last time I put grips on using water, it took at least half an hour and my hands were raw for days afterward.

Now if I can only learn how to wrap bar tape so I don't get funny bits sticking out around the end plugs...

Monday, January 02, 2006

January Training Plan

As promised, my training plan for January. This isn't too different from what I was doing at the end of last November, I basically just reduced my time on the bike and my off-bike exercises are a bit easier.

I'm going to try to do as much of my riding outside as is possible. Riding on the trainer for too many days in a row is a big motivation drainer for me. It's been rainy the past couple days, so the roads are all clear of snow now, we'll see how long it holds up. I'll do some cross-training when the snow comes again.