Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Tonight, I had trouble shifting the front derailleur (my road bike has been on the trainer for a while, so it doesn't get its normal maintenance... doh!). Typically, I shift into the big ring for the work interval, but today I couldn't get it to shift. So, instead, I rode in the small ring and the smallest cog and picked up my cadence to hit my power number. It was a pretty significant difference, a change in gain ratio from 7.28 to 6.18, or about 15%.
I'd been a little unhappy with the cruise interval workout for the past few weeks. While it was tough, I didn't feel like it was preparing me well for race efforts. Today, I discovered the problem! I had been riding in a gear that was too hard, and the result was that my cadence was too low. Tonight, in the easier gear, I had to keep my cadence up to hit my power target, and I felt like the workout was much more effective. This is how I ride when I race; I'm definitely a spinner more than a masher.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Everyone seemed to have the same idea I did about the start, it was pretty laid-back for a cyclocross race. I got a decent position in the opening. There was a lot of place swapping on the first lap. Some guys were faster on the flats, others (like me) were faster on the climbs.
Ultimately, I raced pretty well. I didn't have any of the little technical problems this week. No issues getting clipped back in, no getting hung up on the saddle. The only problem I encountered was that I may have had my brake pads set a little too close to the rims. It's no problem in the dry, but with the mud, I think my pads rubbed a little. Also, I was a little reckless going over the barriers. I was quick, but very close to tripping on the first two laps.
My pacing was much better this week. I felt like quitting after two laps. When I'm racing well, I usually feel like quitting with about one lap to go, so I took this as a good sign.
I had another exciting finish this week. Another guy in my club, Mark, had opened a little gap on me on the last lap. It didn't look like I was going to be able to get by him, but, like last week, I hung in there. On the last long, steep climb, he had some issues getting enough traction and had to get off and run (about half the field was running this hill). I rode it, which allowed me to catch him near the top. I tried to pour it on going down the hill and on the flats, but Mark stayed right with me. He was just behind me at the last corner before the finish. Both of us sprinted for it and I edged him out by no more than half a wheel.
Unofficial results hadn't been posted by the time I left, but my wife said she thought I finished 10th. It was a big field today, maybe 25 to 30 racers.
I'm recovering a little better today than usual. I'm still wiped out, but it doesn't seem as bad as it has other times. I slept for about an hour after I got home, which was good. I've also been focusing on drinking lots of water throughout the day after a race. I think that's why I get headaches after races, from dehydration. Anyway, it seems to be working.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
It looks like the weather will be nasty tomorrow. They're not predicting rain anymore, but they are predicting temps in the low 30's and winds around 20 mph. If that holds true, it will be a tough race.
If it does look like the wind will be a factor, I'm thinking about altering my usual strategy of going out really hard on the first lap. I tend not to do so well in the wind, and I think burning up all that energy on the first lap may lead to me popping pretty quick. It has to do with power to weight ratio. Normally, being a light guy works in my favor, and my power to weight ratio is OK. In the wind though, the weight doesn't matter so much and it's all about power, and typically the bigger guys produce more power.
As the VeloNews article mentions, there are some big hills out there where I should be able to make up some time. The basic idea would be to minimize my losses in the wind (if I can draft off someone, great!) and try to make up ground where the wind isn't such a factor (ie- on the hills, technical sections and running sections). We'll see how it all works out.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
While I was riding the trainer tonight, I got to thinking about what I'd accomplished this year. I want to write about this once the season is over, but here is the big one:
I've put in about 164 hours on the bike this year (including a bunch of time on the trainer) and about 108 hours off the bike. I started on January 2nd of this year and have been training ever since then. Just consistently training for 10+ months will be an accomplishment, but what else has it gotten me? One big thing that has happened during this time is that I now feel like an "athlete". Despite having played a variety of sports all through school, I never felt like an athlete as a kid (and I'm not really sure why), and now I do. This isn't just optimistic self-talk stuff either, this is something I know.
For me, this is a pretty powerful realization. Between this reflection and being a little ticked off about how badly I raced last Saturday, I'm pretty fired up to finish up the year strong now.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Craft Nemo Shoe Covers
I'm not sure if Craft is still making what I have, but the linked item looks similar. I got these things last winter, and they are great for cold weather riding. My feet have never gotten cold when I've been wearing these babies. The problem is, if it's not really cold, my feet have a tendency to overheat. Also, because they cover up a lot of the bottom of the shoe, I haven't worn them for mountain biking. They're a very tight fit over my Shimano M120 shoes, but they fit better over my Sidi Dominators.
Pearl Izumi Winter Tour Sock
I tried these socks out this morning for "cool" weather riding (about 45F this morning); I didn't wear the shoe covers. The socks performed pretty well, definitely better than a typical summer cycling sock. My feet were not exactly warm, but they were comfortable for the whole ride. I don't think I'd want to wear them alone in temps much colder though, at least on the road. I could probably tolerate colder temps on the mountain bike, since there's less wind.
Craft Split Finger Thermal Gloves
These fall into a similar category as the shoe covers. They are great in cold temps, but my hands have a tendency to overheat if it's warmer.
Canari Static Gloves
I got these this year and have worn them several times this Fall. They're not quite as warm as the Craft gloves but they are considerably warmer than my normal summer gloves. They are also definitely windproof, as advertised. If I'm pushing hard, my hands can overheat a little in these gloves, but it's nowhere near the problem it is with the Craft gloves.
Pearl Izumi Photon Splice Knickers
I tried these out this morning for the first time too, again looking for some cool weather solutions (I also wanted to evaluate them for racing). First off, the stitching on these knickers is pretty cool, they make you look fast! Funtionally, they provided decent "core" warmth, particularly since they have no chamois, so I wore normal bike shorts underneath. Knee warmth was a little tough for me to judge today, since it was also rainy. The rain soaked through the knickers and made my knees a little colder than I would have liked. They probably would have been OK today if not for the rain.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
I did my warm-up primarily on the course. Since the course had more tricky spots than usual, I thought it would benefit me to ride them a few times. I basically felt OK for the warm-up.
We lined up for the start, almost all Flying Rhinos on the front row. The start was a long, straight, paved stretch of road. Right from the whistle, a bunch of guys blew by me on the road. I made the decision not to go with them, which is not typical for me, because I figured I'd catch them once we got to the grass. Someone crashed in front of me in the first (grass) corner, but I was able to ride around without a problem. Two corners later, I overcooked it and rode into the tape. My race settled down a little bit after that and I started gradually picking up the spots I'd lost on the road. My legs didn't feel particularly good though, so I don't think I was pushing as hard as I normally do.
My issues really didn't get started until the second lap. When I remounted after a barrier section, my tights got caught on the saddle and I couldn't move forward to sit correctly. I ended up having to hop off a little and remount. Then, I started having trouble getting clipped back anytime after I got off the bike. I don't think it was a problem of the pedals shedding mud, but more of me not being able to find the cleat. I don't know, maybe it was a combination of both. I used my new shoes and Eggbeaters this week. Still, not getting clipped in quickly was costing me time all over the course.
I had just about caught back up to the two guys I was chasing, after having lost those spots with my remount issue, when I caught up to another guy who promptly crashed in front of me. This time, it slowed me down considerably and I had to put a foot down (more clipping in issues). So, back to work closing down the gap.
Just as I closed the gap at the end of the third lap, the first guy stood up and attacked. The other guy went with him, but I kept up with a steady tempo. Eventually, they slowed down again, but it looked like the gap was staying constant. There was a pretty big gap to the rider behind me, and I considered backing off and just holding my spot, but I decided that I should keep working. I figured that this course was hard enough that there was a good chance one of these guys might crash and, if I was close, I could capitalize on it.
In fact, that's exactly what happened. There was a tree down across the couse near the end. Most of the C racers were dismounting and running it, myself included. So, as the guy in front of me tried to remount after the tree, he had some kind of problem and stumbled. It slowed him down enough for me to catch him at the bottom of the last hill. I had watched him on this hill before and knew he was having some trouble with it. I put the hammer down and passed him on the hill and kept it up until I turned onto the finishing straight. At that point I looked back, saw no one was chasing, and cruised through the finish.
I ended up finishing 11th out of 21 riders. I felt a little bad that I passed the guy because he stumbled, but that's how it goes. Lots of people passed me as a result of my problems. After my 6th place in the last race (and being in contention for 4th), finishing a lucky 11th was a little disheartening. Still, it's not the results that matter, it's the improvement and the meeting of goals. So, how did I do with my race goals?
1. Execute race strategy - Basically this was OK. I think I might not have pushed hard enough on the first lap though.
2. Smoothness in mounts/dismounts - Eh, this wasn't so good. I had the big remount problem, issues clipping in, and my foot hit a barrier once (it didn't cause a problem, but it could have easily made me face-plant). Ultimately, these errors forced me to burn up a lot of energy closing gaps that I had already closed.
3. Push for 20yards - This is a good idea, but I just don't feel like I've got enough extra to do this. The only time I did it today was executing my last pass. Although, I suppose you're never going to have "extra" energy in a race like this, so I guess I just need to find a way to do it.
So, really, not such a great race. To put it into the "big picture" though, last year I had a pretty bad outing at the Munson cyclocross race, and I was the last finisher. This year, a bad race is still a mid-pack finish. So, I am getting faster.
Friday, October 20, 2006
I had a good ride last night. I rode on the road for a while and then set up and rode a little course in my backyard. The course was pretty fun and surprisingly tough... maybe because it was so short... lots of corners and hills (OK, one hill) in a short space. I just wanted to work on cornering a little bit and mounts/dismounts. So, I guess I'm about as ready as I'm going to get.
So, goals for the race:
1. Execute the "race strategy".
2. Concentrate on smoothness rather than speed for running sections.
3. Push hard for 20yds after corners, hills and running sections (ie- where other people might let up).
The following strategy is what I've found to work for me in cyclocross racing. The actual race "strategy" begins well before the race:
- Eat last “meal” 3 hours from the race start, at the latest.
- Drink plenty of water in the time leading up to the race.
- Take one gel prior to the warm-up (probably not really needed, but it's my habit from mtn bike racing); keep drinking water.
- Make sure numbers are pinned on, transponder is on, etc.
- 15 minute easy/moderate spin
- 6 race pace intervals, 30s on, 1 minute off
- 5 minutes easy spin
- Go to the starting line, try to line up on or near the front
- Start (first 1 or 2 laps): Work to get as high of a position as is possible. This is key, go out hard!
- Middle (3rd lap): Hold/evaluate position (and back off slightly?).
- Finish (last lap or 2): Assess position. If position is OK, defend it, if not, do what is necessary to move up.
- Recovery drink/snack
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
It looks like my wife might have lined up some hockey for me for the upcoming "off-season". There's a group that plays Sunday nights at one of the rinks where she coaches, and they're looking for a sub; it sounds ideal. I'll be a little rusty, but it should be fun.
I'm also interested in trying to do some cross-country skiing this winter. Of course, I said the same thing last winter, and it didn't happen. I stumbled across this website about cross-country skiing last night. It has a bunch of good articles; most of them are about racing, but some were a bit more general.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
My knee has been sore most of the week, not because of any overuse sort of thing, but because I was careless lifting weights. I was doing some snatches last Sunday with a 35lb dumbbell, and I swung it into the inside of my knee. It dropped me to the floor for about a minute. I was not a happy camper. I've got a pretty deep bruise now. It doesn't seem to be affecting my riding, but my knee is still sore to the touch.
I did a short ride on the trainer last night. It's been unusually cold and windy here since I've gotten back, we've even got a little bit of snow. I'll ride outside today though; I haven't decided if I want to do a road ride or mountain bike. Mountain biking may be more comfortable with the wind. I was going to do the Saturday AM ride with the Rhinos, but I slept right through it. With the week I had, getting the extra sleep was probably more important.
A couple of interesting links:
- Ashwin finding motivation from Mr. T... whatever works I guess
- Landis outlines his defense
- Tigers are one game away from the World Series!
Ashwin's blog entry was particularly timely, as I was having similar issues before I left last week. I had been thinking about what I was going to do in the "off-season", and had gotten to where I was more focused on that than I was on the rest of my season. The trip seems to have done me some good in that regard at least.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
It did get me thinking about the importance of being mentally (and physically) tough. For example, the last lap of my 'cross race at Stony was basically all about being tough. I got passed for 4th place right at the beginning of the lap, and the guy in 6th was right behind me. In that situation, you have a choice. Am I going to let this guy get away, or am I going to do whatever it takes to stay with him? Of course, the correct answer is the latter, and then it just gets down to having the toughness to actually do it. In this particular race, I cracked before the end, and they both got away. I don't really feel bad about it, I hung on for a long time and I just could not stay with them anymore at the end. The deal is, the next time, I expect to do better.
So, how to improve this kind of toughness? I think doing long threshold intervals is good, but I also like doing the following two exercises off the bike as part of strength and core workouts.
First, the stationary wall squat. This one will smoke your quads. Keeping your legs tense makes it harder. I've progressed to where I can hold this for two minutes, doing 3 sets. After a minute and a half or so (especially the second and third time around), my legs are twitching and my body is begging to quit. You "simply" have to make the decision not to. (This picture is clearly "posed", usually I'm not smiling. ;) I also usually try to get a little lower, so my upper leg is about parallel to the floor.)
The second one is a pretty common core exercise, the plank. I usually hold this for two minutes also; I could probably go longer, but done in a circuit with other core exercises, two minutes is still pretty tough. (In fact, reading what I just wrote, I should start trying to go longer!)
One of the other things I'd like to incorporate next year are some of Ross's anaerobic conditioning drills. These are great for working on pushing through fatigue. I'm not sure how I can incorporate these into the rest of my training plan without burning out quickly though.
On an unrelated topic, I watched another mountain bike movie, No Recess - Welcome to the East, Friday night. It ended up being mostly urban riding, which is cool and all, but really not my cup of tea. The last movie I watched was considerably better; I probably wouldn't watch this one again.
I'm heading back over to Germany for the week. I'm leaving in a few hours, so no new blog entries for a while.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Here's me hitting the barriers on the first lap.
Running through the corner of the volleyball court. The sand was pretty deep and loose, I wouldn't have been able to consistently ride it.
This was a marshy section. I consistently lost time to my competitors here.
More sand! We had to run through beach a little bit; the beach section wasn't as long as last year though.
Me crossing the finish line on the last lap. That's a look of relief... I think.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
I'm just finishing up my last Build block (actually, I'm starting the recovery week), so, in theory, all that's left to do this year is taper and race...
As happens most times though, life is going to interfere with my plan. I'm scheduled to head back over to Germany next week for work, for the whole week. This is also supposed to be the first week for my Peak phase, and that just isn't going to happen while I'm gone.
Since I've done mini-tapers for the past two weeks (I've raced both Sundays), I'm feeling pretty good and I suspect that I could do another hard (Build) week this week and then use the trip next week to recover. Then maybe I'd do a one week taper and then race? Sure, it's not optimal, but I suspect I'd be better off doing that than essentially having two very light weeks in a row.
I planned this Taper/Peak phase a little differently than my last one. The one earlier this year got screwed up a bit by me getting sick. Then, I turned around and picked all of the wrong workouts. Since I'd been sick, I did a week that focused on lower intensity aerobic workouts, which would have been OK, but then I continued to do this into my Peak phase. This was definitely the wrong approach. This time around, I've selected higher intensity workouts, and I expect it to work much better.
My blog has been light on pictures lately. So, I thought I'd post this little comparison. Here's me at the Bloomer cyclocross race from Oct 2, 2005.
And me at the Springfield Oaks CX race from Sept 24, 2006. If you look closely, you can see some physical differences (they're easier to spot with larger pictures). The more obvious differences are in positioning on the bike and confidence/comfort.
Also, I noticed that I never posted my final result from the Springfield Oaks race. I finished 13th out of 22.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
I felt better this weekend than I did last weekend. I felt pretty good and strong on my ride yesterday, even though I rode in the rain the whole time; it was relatively quick and I did just a few hard efforts. Today, I got there early enough to get a nice long warm-up in, and I think that it made a big difference.
I was able to go pretty hard on the first and second laps. As I came across the finish line after the second lap, I heard the announcer say, "Here comes our fourth place racer, from the Flying Rhino Cycling Club." I felt like looking around to see who they were talking about, I had no idea that I had picked up that many places. That being said, the guys in first through third were well out of sight. A couple of guys that must have started slower caught up to me during the third lap. We rode as a group until the last lap. About halfway through, one guy broke away (on a mountain bike, doh!), and we couldn't hang on. I had a plan to attack the other guy going up the last hill, but I needed to be on his wheel to do it. I couldn't stay on his wheel to get it done though, so I ended up 6th (out of 30).
Regardless, I raced well. I had a good first couple laps, recovered fairly well on the bike, and had clean mounts and dismounts.
The only question this really brings up is why I raced so much worse last weekend. I think this course suited me a little better; I think I don't do so well when I have to sustain relatively high power (like you do in the wind or the mud). More of it had to do with the warmup though. I felt much better much longer into the race this time than I did last week.