Sunday, May 28, 2006

Head Up!

I did a quick mountain bike ride yesterday at Bald Mtn. I went with my wife, so my pace was a bit slower than normal. It turned out to be a good thing, as it allowed me the opportunity to think a bit more about what I was doing. I'd crashed there earlier this week and I was curious to try it again and see if I could figure out what happened.

Early in the ride, I felt a little sketchy going down a few of the hills (these were little hills too!). That's when I noticed I was only looking about 4 feet in front of me! After noticing that, I started focusing on keeping my head up going down the hills, and I instantly felt much more comfortable. I had been working on looking ahead for (flat) cornering, but not apparently not for descending. Pretty basic stuff, but important.

As a side point, I did something this morning to really tweak a muscle in my upper back. I don't know what it was, but it's really pretty painful.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wrapping Up

I just wrapped up my first week of the Build phase. I didn't follow Friel's recommendation to cut back on weight training, and I felt it this week. I ended up being sore for the first time in quite a while. I altered a couple of the workouts that I had originally planned because I got so worn down. Sometimes doing that is hard on the ego, but I think it's the right thing to do. I was a little surprised that the fatigue hit me in the first week of a block, usually it doesn't catch up to me until the second week. I was pretty busy at work though, and I think that makes a difference.

I did have a nice aerobic ride last night. I left my house around 6:30pm, got back around 8:30pm, and there was still plenty of light. I rode out to a local park that I hadn't visited before and was impressed. It looks like there are some decent cycling roads in that general area, so I'll have to explore a little bit more.

Today was my day off, and I'm feeling pretty decent, so I should be ready to go for this week.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Dad's Bike

My dad now has a nicer road bike than me, he got a Cannondale R800 earlier this week. It looks like a nice ride, I'll be interested in giving it a spin the next time I visit.

This week has been tough. I began the Build phase of my training program, and I was very busy at work. The result is that I'm pretty wiped out this morning. I haven't decided what I want to do for a ride today.

Monday, May 15, 2006

New Bar

Fruits of my evening's labor... a new pullup bar.

I think my wife will be happier with the new arrangement, as this was my old "pullup bar".

Despite being the hanger rod for our cedar closet, it was actually pretty solid. I never had any structural concerns over using it. The problem was (aside from being in a closet) that it was way too low and it was too easy to cheat by putting your feet down. I tested the new bar out a little, and it should be much better.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

LT Field Test

This morning I did my LT field test for the block I just finished. All went very well. I crushed my previous result by 16Watts! Of course, there were certain factors that adversely affected that test.

So, I'm now basically finished with my Base phase and am moving on to the Build phase. I ended up improving my LT power a total of 27 Watts over this phase, which worked out to a 1mph average speed improvement.

While I'm very pleased about all these numbers, I still need to work to make sure this translates into improved race performance.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Short and Boring

I had originally written a long post that sort of re-hashed the race again, but when I re-read it, even I was bored. So, the gist of it was that there were a couple of areas where I could have probably pushed harder, but that I was still generally happy with the race. So there you go, short and boring instead of long and boring.

I did a quick little ride tonight on my singlespeed. It's the first time I've ridden that bike in a while. I was surprised at how easy the gear felt; it didn't exactly feel hard before, but today was definitely easier.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fort Custer Update, etc

They updated the Fort Custer Stampede results today. There were 4 riders in my class who weren't initially listed in the results; unfortunately, they all finished ahead of me. I did suspect something was up since I couldn't find a couple of the guys in that starting line picture in the results. It also jives better with how many people I thought passed me. Crashing is definitely slow...

Apparently, part of the timing and scoring issue was the high number of "walk up" racers. They only had about 80 people pre-register, and about 320 registered the day of the event (myself included)!

I found a cool interview with Ned Overend on CyclingNews.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Race Report: Fort Custer Stampede

I rode my first race of the year on Sunday, the Fort Custer Stampede.

I made a weekend out of it. I drove to my parents' house on Friday night, then got up early on Saturday and pre-rode most of the course with Greg. Greg lives near Fort Custer, so he's ridden there often. I really enjoyed the trails, but there were several spots where I expected that the local guys would eat me up (Saturday was the first time I'd ridden there), and they did. The only hang-up on Saturday was that I bent my derailleur hanger on a big stick. My dad and I messed with it Saturday afternoon and got it bent back so it was reasonably straight. I have since ordered and extra hanger from Kona, just in case.

Going into the race, I was torn between racing Sport and Beginner. Given that I'd only ridden these trails once, that I'm just ending my Base phase, and that I've gotten pretty well smoked in every bike race I've entered to this point, I elected to go with Beginner.

The start of the race looked to be important. The race started in an open field, but only stayed in the field for about 50 yards before it hit the singletrack. They had mowed a bit on each side of the trail, so you could pass, but it was not ideal. I had a decent start and hit the singletrack in about 5th place. The 4 guys in front of me immediately opened a small gap. We also almost immediately started passing the slower Sport racers on their second laps.

I maintained contact pretty well until we hit the first little techy bit, a twistier stretch of singletrack with a bunch of logpiles (I should say now that I've never seen a trail system with as many logpiles as Fort Custer). Somehow, I managed to trip myself going over one of them (I literally caught my foot on a log and tripped). It wasn't a bad crash, but it cost me a little time and a few guys got by me.

We hit the biggest climbs next, they call them the Cardiac Climb and CPR. They're really not as bad as the names suggest, but they are made tricky by some substantial logs across the trail about 3/4 of the way up. I passed some guys going up these hills.

The next section, called Granny's Garden (I have no idea why), was the most technical of the course. It's pretty tight and twisty and has lots of little drops and short technical climbs. I had done reasonably well here in the pre-ride, but I made a mistake during the race. I was going down a section of little drops which ended with a hard right hand turn. The ground was pretty soft at the bottom, and I either had my weight too far forward or I started turning my wheel before it got rolling. In any case, my front wheel stopped and I went down. This crash cost me some real time, and a little skin. In addition to having to pick myself back up, my chain came off the chainring, so I had to put that back on.

There was a pretty easy section after Granny's Garden, but I was a little gassed and couldn't push as hard as I would have liked. In terms of fitness, that was really my only disappointment of the race (OK, I would have also liked to have hung with those first 4 guys at the start, but considering where I am in my training plan, that wasn't a surprise). This lead into the Amusement Park, a relatively flat and not-too-difficult singletrack section. I wasn't able to get close enough to the guy in front of me (who may or may not have been in my class) to pass, but I didn't lose any ground either. I basically maintained this position for quite a while. I did pass a guy at some point whose derailleur had ripped off. I saw it come off, but I'm not sure exactly what caused it to let go, it was kind of strange.

After meandering about on some flat singletrack, we hit what is, in my opinion, the signature trail feature of Fort Custer, the Trenches. The trail winds in and out and along a series of trenches that were used when the park area was still part of the military base. They're pretty easy (and fun) to ride, but since you can't see very far ahead, it's hard to go fast if you're not familiar with them. I entered the Trenches right behind a few guys, and by the time I got out, they were gone.

Not too much to say about the rest of the lap. We did go through a stream crossing, which Greg and I didn't know about for the pre-ride. It wasn't a big deal, except the part I rode through was pretty deep. The guy taking pictures told me that it was much shallower earlier in the day. Pictures of me going through the stream are here and here.

The only other point of interest was a decision we had to make going through or around this large pit near the finish. One side said "easy" (which I took to mean slow), and the other side said "hard" (which I took to mean fast). Greg and I had taken the easy choice on Saturday. I decided to take the hard way for the race, which was a mistake. It was a loose downhill (which wasn't a problem), but you had to turn a bit at the bottom and the trail was pretty washed out. They had armored the bottom with some wood planks, and I had to slow a little to hit the planks (had I missed them, I think I would have experienced crash #3). Anyway, the momentum I lost hurt me on the very loose climb back out. A couple guys behind me had taken the easy way and ended up ahead of me when the trail came back together. From here, it was a pretty flat, open cruise to the finish.

So, that was it. I ended up finishing 12th out of 20. After looking at the results, I'm pretty sure that one of the guys that went by me around that pit was in my class and beat me by about 6 seconds. Comparing my speed to the speeds from last year (they used a slightly shorter course) suggests I would have come in 4th or 5th in that field. Just goes to show that your placement depends a lot on who shows up. Incidently, it looks like I would have been crushed in Sport.

Despite the fact that I expected to place higher before the race, I was basically happy with my performance. My fitness level was about where I expected it to be. Considering that this race happened at the end of a 3 week training block, it was actually better than I expected. I wasn't so hot on the real anaerobic sections (like the start), but at this point in my training program, that's to be expected. I also felt like I probably could have done another lap if I had to. I wouldn't have been competitive in the Sport class, but I probably could have gotten through it.

Even though I lost a lot of time in the more technical parts of the course (and crashed twice), I was actually reasonably happy with the technical riding part of my race. Considering I'd only ridden the trail once before, the technical bits went better than I expected. I surprised myself and absolutely ripped through a few sections (sort of a situation where I just turned my brain off and went for it); of course, this was offset by being a little too tentative in some other parts. I definitely need to keep working on the technical aspect of my riding. I think at this point I'm losing more time on sections where speed is limited by skill rather than by fitness.

Monday, May 01, 2006


My legs are pretty smoked today. I had a hard weekend of training. Friday night I did an off-bike anaerobic conditioning drill, courtesy of Ross. Saturday I went out for a ride at PLRA (check out the cool map here). Sunday morning I did an off-bike strength and core workout, and then Sunday afternoon I went out for a 2 hour road ride. For the rest of Sunday, I sat on the couch and watched Star Trek.

The PLRA ride was good. I cleaned a couple sections that I hadn't before, but I'm still having trouble with a couple steep climbs. Both have some technical features immediately preceding them, so it's a difficult for me to maintain momentum to start the climb.

My ride Sunday was also good, but it ended up being harder than I had planned because of the wind. The loop I rode goes around a lake, and it felt like I was battling a headwind about 3/4 of the way around.

Today is a rest day, and I plan to take full advantage of it.