Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Workouts of '06

Last workouts of 2006 today. I did a Ross GPP workout and a core workout. Everything felt OK; I'm not sure if my contrast showers helped yesterday or not. My legs felt decent today; I would have thought they'd be a little tired from yesterday (I did the ride in the morning and a strength workout in the evening). I don't know if the reason I wasn't tired today had to do with the showers or just that it's early in the season.

Final tally of the hours for 2006:

  • 177:37 on the bike

  • 110:46 of strength/core

  • 19:03 of cross-training

I'm off on Monday, so Tuesday will mark the beginning of my 2007 training schedule. I'll be staying in the Preparation phase for a while in '07. So, I'll still be doing lots of cross-training for the next several weeks, but I want to get on the bike at least a few times per week also.

I'm re-reading Friel's Cyclist's Training Bible this Winter. One of the things that has stuck out at me so far is that I somehow need to be monitoring workload. The most universal way of doing this seems to be to use RPE. So, as part of my data collection next year, I'll be assigning an average RPE for a workout and then multiplying that by the time to get workload. I think tracking this last year would have helped my Peak and Race phases. It also makes integrating cross-training easier.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Contrast Shower

So, I tried a new recovery technique after the ride today, a "contrast shower". Basically, you take your normal shower, then alternate between hot and cold water for a few minutes at the end. I did 30s cold and 1 minute hot three times (finish up with cold). All I can say so far is that this is definitely an exciting way to finish up a shower! That cold water is really cold! It takes your breath away.

We'll see how I feel tomorrow. It really won't be much of an indication if the legs feel just OK. If they feel good, then I can say that it seems to work.

Winter Training Ride

I went out with the Rhinos this morning on the first "Winter Training Ride" of the season. I showed up a little late, just as they were rolling out of the parking lot. Fortunately, we just do loops around the lake at Stony Creek, so, in theory, all you have to do is go in the other direction to catch the group.

I helped a guy fix a flat, and by the time we were about done, the group had finished their first lap. "Great", I thought, "I'll just jump out on the road and catch them." Well, by the time I got to the road the gap was kind of big (it's a big parking lot). "No problem", I thought, "I'll just have to hammer for a few minutes, it will be a good warmup. They're not supposed to going fast." I did a good job closing the gap for the first few minutes, and then I hit the wall. I managed to keep the gap about the same, but I wasn't catching them any more and I was working way too hard. So, when I was about halfway around the lake, I turned around to pick them up on the other side. At least it gave me a story to tell once I joined the group.

The group's pace was actually right where I need it to be right now. Although, a lot of the guys are riding mountain or 'cross bikes with knobby tires, and I had slick tires on my bike. Hopefully the pace will stay like this for a while (I hear that it does pick up toward March). It's nice to do the longer rides with a group for company.

Friday, December 29, 2006

10 Rounds!

I did the 10x10 drill again on my heavy bag yesterday. The last time I did it, I only made it 7 rounds before my punches were so weak that there wasn't much point in going on. Yesterday, I went the full 10 rounds! Once again, my last punches in the later rounds were kind of weak, but it was definitely better than before.

I'm not sure exactly what I'll do today, I may hit the trainer or do a short ride outside. Tomorrow I'm planning on doing the first of the "Winter Training Rides" with the Rhinos. Supposedly this will be long ride at an easy to moderate pace, which is what I need, but we'll see.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back Home

I'm back from my trip to Mattawan for Christmas. We had a nice relaxing time.

I did end up doing some training every day I was there (including Christmas Day). I didn't do anything yesterday though, our travel-day home. It's not looking like I'll do much today either... but we'll see.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Training

So, I'd been thinking that I wouldn't do any kind of workout on Christmas Day, until I read about Daley Thompson over on Ross's board. This guy was a decathlete who used to train twice on Christmas Day because he figured his competition wouldn't be training that day (the second time was so that he'd still be up on a competitor, just in case someone did decide to train on that day).

So now, I don't know what I'll do, but I'll do something...

Stony Ride

I went out to Stony this morning for a little ride. I figured I might as well take advantage of the nice weather while it lasts. It was around 34F for the ride, and the trail was in great shape. I was reasonably comfortable after the first 10 minutes or so.

I felt pretty decent on the bike, but I wasn't pushing very hard. I decided to stop and take a few pictures to force myself to slow down.

Transition to the climb up "Mt. Sheldon". I'm actually at the top of a hill looking backward. The legs burned a bit more than normal on the climbs, but it wasn't too bad... hey, it's December.

On top of "Mt. Sheldon". It's hard to see in the picture, but you can make out the city of Birmingham from here.

There's a bench at the top, for resting I guess. "Mt. Sheldon" isn't really a mountain, it's just the highest point on this trail.

Entrance to Roller Coaster 1 is in the middle of the picture. There's an easier way down to the right.

Beginning of Roller Coaster 2.

The climb at the end of Roller Coaster 2 (again, I'm already at the top looking backward); it's actually much steeper than the picture suggests. This one trips up a lot of novices. The trick is to really haul the mail down the hill on the opposite bank, then you only have to make about two or three hard pedal strokes to clear this climb.

The last little section of singletrack before you're back out on the wide park-maintained access roads. There is one nasty climb after this picture. I saw that they had strategically placed some foam padding around a few of the trees on the descent... must be for the XC skiers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Day 22 - Intervals and Vacation

Yay, I'm finally on vacation! I had planned to work on Tuesday, but since I went in for half the day on Thursday and Friday, I was able to take tomorrow off too. Things are largely under control at work, so I should be able to enjoy my time off.

Today is another interval / core day. The intervals are supposed to be short (only 50 meters), so I'll run the stairs for that work. I've noticed an increase in the flexibility of my back lately from doing the core work. There's an exercise called "wall walking" that I've been doing regularly that seems to help. With your back to a wall, you walk down the wall with your hands, ideally until your hands get to the floor and you're in a bridge position. I still have to stop well before I get to the floor, but I'm definitely getting better.

I retensioned the wheels on my singlespeed, so it's ready for winter riding duty. If the weather stays dry and cold, I'll head out to the trail in the morning for a little riding. Plan B for tomorrow is to hit the Rhino's indoor training session, but if you can ride outside, why ride inside?

Dog Pictures

I got a request for some pictures of Suzie, so here we go...

Also a little movie chronicling our ill-fated water-skiing adventure this summer. Some pretty serious biker-tans there too.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Day 21 - Fast and Furious

No, not the movie... "I need NAAAWWWSSS". On a vaguely related topic, my wife spied a NOS brand energy drink. Sounds nasty...

OK, so Fast and Furious is also the name of the final Warrior Challenge in the 50 day plan. If you do all 50 days, you go through each challenge twice. This one was a combination of pullups, dumbbell swings, plyometric pushups and knee tucks. No limits on rest between rounds, but the idea is to do as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes. I made it through 7 full rounds and was halfway through number 8 when the timer went off. My rest breaks got progressively longer through the 20 minutes; it was definitely another brutal workout.

The results of this plan have been impressive so far I think. My upper body and back are noticeably stronger (especially my back). My legs look like maybe they've gotten a bit smaller since the cycling season ended, but not too much. My bodyfat has stayed pretty low, somewhere in the 10% neighborhood according to my scale, despite not eating a particularly clean diet. My wife says that I have to wait until Christmas is over before I get more serious about what I'm eating. Despite the shorter duration of my conditioning drills, I also expect that I have largely maintained my aerobic conditioning, which is really the main goal of the off-season.

As far as the conditioning goes, I'll find out soon enough. I'll still be doing a lot of cross-training in January, but I'm going to start adding more time on the bike. If the weather stays dry, I'll do some riding outside. If not, the Rhinos are starting up weekly indoor training sessions Tuesday.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

2007 Season Goals

I sat down yesterday and spent some time defining my 2007 season goals. The list I'd put on my blog before was OK, but I think they weren't sufficiently inspirational. They were closer to training objectives than real goals.

So, here we go, just two main goals for 2007:

1. Finish the Stony Creek MTB time trial in 55 minutes or less.

Depending on who shows up, this would be a top 5 finish in most of the Sport classes. It's also 9 minutes faster than my 2006 time (yikes!). That being said, I did cut 12 minutes from 2005 to 2006, but this jump will be harder. Still, goals are supposed to be hard and are supposed to push you... that's the whole point.

2. Race well enough in cylocross races to move up to the B's in 2008.

Well, there's really no rule about upgrading so I could do this regardless, except that I'd really get crushed if I'm not ready. Effectively, what this means is that I want to be consistently on the podium (top 5) in the C races in 2007. In 2006, my best finish was 6th, and I finished 11th a bunch of times. This won't be easy, but it should be achievable... probably easier than finding 9 minutes at Stony.

Day 19 - GPP Till You Drop

Yesterday's GPP session was brutal. It was scheduled to be 10 rounds of jumprope, burpees, pushups and bodyweight squats. No rest in between rounds either. I made it through 6 rounds plus the jumprope of the 7th, then I got down to do the burpees, and it just wasn't happening. I had slowed down dramatically by then too. I went through the first round in about 2 minutes (if that), but the stopwatch read 18:30 when I stopped... you do the math.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Attempts at a Vacation

Well, I was scheduled to take the day completely off today and tomorrow, but that's just not happening. My project at work is in a critical phase, so I went in for half the day today, and I'm going in for half the day tomorrow. That puts me with 4 vacation days left and 5 days to use them. Hopefully things calm down enough that I can feel good about taking most of next week off.

So, since I did come early today and the weather was decent (for December), I took the 'cross bike out for a ride. I only went out for about an hour, but it felt good to actually ride outside again.

It's just cold enough that Pontiac Lake has a little ice on it.

No ice on the pond across the street though...

It's not a particularly difficult loop, but there's usually a bit of a headwind on the way out and a couple little hills. I felt pretty good, my legs burned a little more the usual on the climbs, but it wasn't really too bad.

So, this helps to validate what I've been doing the past few weeks. Since I've been mainly doing higher intensity, but shorter workouts, I've been a little concerned that my aerobic fitness would degrade too much. So far, that doesn't seem to be the case.

On an unrelated topic, here's what drinking a Coke does to you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Day 17 - Stair Intervals

I had an interval workout scheduled for today. Since I'm still not running per se, I decided to do some interval running on my basement stairs. (For some reason, running on the stairs doesn't bother my knee, but running outside for any reasonable period of time does... at least, it did the last time I tried it).

In true Ross fashion, I didn't rest between my intervals, I did a variery of pushups, squats, squat jumps (ouch!), etc instead. It was a relatively short workout, but by the time I was done, my whole body was nicely fatigued.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

29er Wheels

I got my new 29 inch tires today. I put them on my planned sacrificial road rim, everything seemed to fit OK. The rim doesn't look so narrow, I don't think it will be an issue. So, the next step is to figure out what length spokes I need and start building up the wheel on the mountain hub.

Just a quick comparison of the 29 inch combo to the 26 inch combo... I like the look of that big wheel and tire.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Belated Japan Pictures

Oliver sent these pictures around from our trip to Japan last month...

Tokyo station.

Utsunomiya after dark.

Oliver and Miyoshi-san.

Keith, Eckart and me.

Utsunomiya station.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Anatomy of a Heavy Bag

I got a new toy a couple weeks ago, a water-filled heavy bag. Supposedly, it's 80lbs when full. I didn't check it on the scale, but when I had to hang it, 80lbs seemed about right. I was kind of fascinated by it's construction, so I took some pictures as I was putting it together.

Here's how it came. Mostly a lot of foam and plastic.

The shell with the foam inserted.

Bladder inserted and filling. There ended up being more air space between the filled bladder and the foam than I expected. This helps to make the bag very soft to hit. The bladder felt pretty tough. I don't expect to have any issues with it rupturing.

All closed up.

Hung up and ready for some punishment.

So far, I like the bag pretty well. Like I mentioned, it's fairly soft to hit, so I haven't had any issues with my hands (I am wrapping my hands and wearing bag gloves when I work with the heavy bag). I'm not getting a whole lot of bag movement, although it does move some; I think this has to do with the foam, the air gap, and it being water-filled.

I've only done two real workouts with it so far. One was part of a longer workout, and I just hit the bag for 5 minutes straight. The other was a bag-only workout suggested by Ross. Essentially, he had you throw 10 sets of 10 punches as fast as possible, take a little break, and then go another 10x10. I managed 7 rounds (10x10x7 = 700 punches), but my last few punches in the last two rounds were pretty pitiful.

What's this have to do with bike racing? Not much, but it's December. My plan for this part of the year is just to stay in generally good shape and give my legs a little break from cycling. I did do a speed skill ride on the trainer yesterday, and I felt surprisingly strong. I can say that spending so much time off the bike for the past few weeks has really gotten me fired up to start riding again.

Day 14

I'm continuing to truck along on my 28 day "50 Day" plan. It's been more of the same the past couple days. It was interesting (and good!) that my back never did get sore from the sledgehammer swinging like I expected.

Today was another GPP day; it had the typical assortment of Ross exercises. I'm definitely improving with this type of workout. While today certainly wasn't easy, I'm now able to keep up a much more reasonable pace much farther into the workout.

The other thing that appears to be true is that, if I chose, I could do a GPP-type workout in the morning and be recovered enough to do a quality ride in the evening. This is something I'm contemplating for next season. I would essentially replace some of my "pure" strength sessions with GPP workouts. So far, I think it's doable, but I won't know for sure if I can handle it until I start riding more frequently than I am now.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Day 11 - Density Day

Day 11 brought another Warrior Challenge, this one entitled "Density Day". To summarize: 10 minutes of dumbbell snatches and burpees, 10 minutes of swinging the sledgehammer, and 5 minutes hitting the heavy bag. The sledgehammer was rough, my back will be in full protest mode tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Day 9 - GPP 2

Another day, another GPP workout. I'd been feeling like maybe these workouts weren't hitting my legs enough, but today changed that. This GPP workout had the usual assortment of burpees and jumping jacks (essentially, active rest), but it also threw in some split jumps and mountain climbers. That was enough of a change that my legs were giving out before my arms. I guess that's good.

Sarah is still doing a good job keeping up with me. She ended up effectively taking an extra "rest day" on the day of her skating competition last weekend; she was basically gone the entire day. So, she's one day behind me now.

I've decided that I need to try this whole 29er thing, with the intention that it could be my race bike for next year. My plan is to do it the dirtbag way until I decide if I like it. I've got an old set of road rims that I'm not using, so I'm going to build up a wheelset using those. Yeah, they're a little bit skinnier than a normal mountain bike rim, but only by about 1/8 inch. It should work out OK. I'm going to use the hubs from my 26 inch bike (I also checked to make sure the spoke count matched on both the rims and hubs!).
Where I'm really going to end up spending some money is on the frame and fork. I've pretty much decided that I'll get what I might ultimately want for these, and if I don't like them, sell them back on ebay. The frame and fork are just too critical to the way the bike performs for me to dirtbag that part of the evaluation. I'll strip just about everything else off my 26er.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Day 7 - More Conditioning

More conditioning work today... you're getting the gist of Ross's program now, right? It works in 5 day blocks, 1 of those is a rest day, 1 is devoted purely to strength work, and 3 are conditioning (although many of his conditioning drills also develop strength). I've been impressed at how quickly I've shed the little extra fat that I built up on my couple weeks off, and I haven't been eating particularly clean lately either.

This was supposed to be an interval day, but since I'm not running yet, I substituted some other exercises. So, instead of doing 400meter intervals, I did burpees, jumping jacks and grasshoppers in 1min 30s intervals. It was tough, but good. There may have been some residual fatigue from all of the burpees I did yesterday. For the 50meter intervals, I did 10 seconds of all out jump rope (I've been practicing, so 10s is no problem).

Today was also a Core workout day. The exercises were effective, as usual. The Core work is always interesting. The first Ross workout I did (a couple years ago) was from his now out-of-print "Underground Guide to Warrior Fitness". I remember that I got about halfway through it and had to stop, I was just laying on the floor with my muscles burning and totally spent. Now, that same workout would be way too easy for me, I'd have to increase the workload about 50% for it to be effective for me. This is the payoff for consistent resiliant action.

I'm thinking about switching mountain bikes for next year. I'd like to build up a 29er (hardtail... maybe this one?). I still think that full suspension is probably overkill for Michigan trails, but I would like to eliminate some of the rear wheel chatter I get right now. We'll see...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Quick Notes

A couple of quick notes, since I'm staying up a little later than usual on a Saturday night. Past 10pm... woohoo!

- Looks like Meechigan may get another shot at tOSU. While I'd certainly like to see Michigan play in the national championship game, I'm not so sure I like the idea of a rematch like this. I won't be crushed if Florida goes instead, especially since that would mean we'd get to play USC in the Rose Bowl... classic!

- I noticed that my blog made it on the list of links over at The Biking Hub. Cool!

- Video of Stephen Colbert talking about Floyd Landis. Good stuff...

- The synchronized skating team that my wife coaches took 4th out of 4 in Ann Arbor this afternoon. Tough way to start, but they get better every time I see them.

- There was a good editorial in the June issue of Grassroots Motorsports (easily my favorite car magazine) about setting up a car for autocross. The author's contention was that the best car to race is the one that is easiest to drive fast, not necessarily the one that is the fastest. It's gotten me thinking about how my mountain bike is set up... no doubt I'll post more on this later.

Day 6 - Work Capacity 101

Holy crap! I just finished my workout for the day, Work Capacity 101. This one is another of Ross's "Warrior Challenges". I found it much more difficult than the first one, The Magic 50.

This challenge is broken up into two minute rounds. You have 2 minutes to complete a set of pullups, medicine ball slams (I did band slams, since I didn't want to slam my new medicine ball), burpees, and jumping jacks. The trick is that it doesn't take two minutes to actually do the above exercises, so you get to rest for the remainder. You're supposed to do 10 rounds (or, as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes).

Well, I made it through the first two rounds OK, but I was extremely fatigued after the third round, so I switched to 3 minute rounds (giving me an extra minute of rest). So, I completed 2 two minute rounds and 5 three minute rounds in roughly 20 minutes. I was absolutely smoked afterward... my whole body was just quivering (actually, it still is a little now, 45 minutes later). I like the idea of this workout though; since round times are fixed, the faster you work, the more rest you get.

The beauty of Ross's conditioning workouts (like this one), is that they work your whole body. Your arms are tired, your legs are tired, everything is tired. The burpees are the hardest part of this workout. When Sarah does it later today, I'm going to recommend she starts out with 3 minute rounds, or cuts back from 15 to 10 burpees per round.

If you're unfamiliar with burpees, check out this article. I do burpees the Ross way, with a pushup... like the article says, it is also key to focus on jumping as high as possible (higher jump = more rest, right?... seriously though, working on jumping higher does a better job of working the legs). Although, as I get more and more tired, the quality of the jumps and pushups really start to suffer.