Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ice Hike

I went out to Pontiac Lake this morning for some hiking. I expected the ground to be frozen, but I figured that the conditions would otherwise be OK. I knew I might be wrong when I only saw two other cars at the trailhead; then I almost wiped out when I stepped out of the car. The parking lot was completely iced over.


On the trail, the tread was covered with a thick layer of ice. It was very bad near the trailhead, but conditions improved some once the trail really got into the tree cover (more crunchy snow instead of ice).




I walked along the edges and managed to go the whole day without falling (farther up the trail, you could basically walk anywhere). The GPS said I covered 4.7 miles in 2 hours. Anyway, it was borderline stupid to be out there today, but I had fun.



Edit: GPS data now loaded...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Wrap

So, I'm back home from my Christmas travels. Sarah and I (and Suzie Q) went down to Muncie, Indiana last week to spend Christmas with Sarah's family. It was pretty low-key, but I didn't get enough sleep. I got some exercise in before I left and then one day while I was down there.

From Muncie, we came back to Michigan to visit my family. We had a nice visit there also, but I didn't sleep enough there either. I got two workouts in on this leg of the trip. One day was a minute drill from Ross. Kevin and I went on a Fartlek run the other day. I got a Garmin eTrex Vista for Christmas, so I took it on the run. Here's the data. The data isn't bad, but it looks like it got off a little in a few spots. The time info is also not right, because it includes a few minutes of me futzing around with the GPS at the house. Anyway, it should be a fun toy.

We left my parents' house just as a big snowstorm was rolling in. The roads were bad most of the way home. It took us about an extra hour to get here, and I was driving a bit faster than most of the other cars (I credit the snow tires).

The lack of sleep had me feeling like a cold was coming on, so I didn't work out yesterday when I got home. I slept like a rock last night and I feel pretty good this morning. I'll do some kind of workout today, I'm just not sure what yet.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hill Sprints

"Happiness is a warm puppy."

- Charles Schultz


So, what's new since my last post? Hockey was good on Sunday. We had a big snowstorm in the morning, so I figured we might be short on skaters Sunday night. As it turned out, just about everyone showed up, we had 4 or 5 guys on the bench. I actually played pretty well; at least I felt like my "hockey fitness" was better than it had been all year. I don't know if it was the change in workouts or what, but it was good. The strange thing about the game was that I thought our side should have been much better than the other side (even though the best player was on the other side), but we got blown out. We had trouble breaking out of our end and we had trouble scoring, but in between, we were pretty good. ;) Our side did a lot of flying around and a lot of work, but we didn't really get much done.


Tuesday night was another strength workout. After doing only bodyweight exercises last week, I went back to using the weights some this week. No issues there, but the workout turned out to be longer than I like. It ended up taking an hour and 10 minutes. I prefer to keep my strength workouts to 45-50 minutes if I can. Workout quality can start to suffer if I go too long.


Last night I went outside and ran some hill sprints. I worked a little late, so it was dark by the time I got out to run. The road was a little snowy in parts, but not too bad. More distracting than the road was the German Shephard tied up at the top of the hill. He'd start barking like crazy every time I'd get up to the top. I ended up doing 8 sprints (run up, 15 pushups, walk down, immediately run up again). I felt like the running wasn't too hard (maybe the snow kept me from going full speed?), but the pushups caught up to me. Still, I was feeling pretty tired after I got home. I've also noticed a little soreness in my legs today, so I guess it was a good workout.


My upper body is not recovering from the workouts as fast as my lower body (probably because it's not used to being worked so frequently), so I'm probably going to give the upper body a break tonight. I'm not sure exactly what I'll do, go run or use the jump rope.


I start my Christmas vacation tomorrow. I may go skiing someplace local tomorrow (there are two small ski areas within about 15 minutes of my house). We'll see.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Camera Dump

I finally pulled the pictures off of my camera and phone; you'll see that some of them have been on there for a while. Here's a sampling:


Me chasing John Osgood at the Stony Creek CX race. The warm weather is a distant memory now...




Video of the barriers at Stony. See, no hop!


video

Me and Sarah in Georgia over Thanksgiving.


A guy at work owns this yellow motorcycle... I think it's so cool.



Kitchen remodeling...






Suzie running through the snow this morning. I'm not sure how much actually fell because we get lots of drifting, but I know I shoveled about 8 inches out of the driveway.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Beat Up...

... from the feet up...

That's how I'm feeling today. I did some pretty hard workouts off the bike this week, and today I'm just feeling beat up. I was going to go on a long hike, but I think I may trade that for a short walk around the neighborhood. This isn't the time of the year to push too hard.

I did ride my bike on the trainer this week. Just half an hour or so of pedaling technique work. It was the first time I'd been on the bike in about two weeks. I felt a little strange at first, but once I got going, it was OK.


I've been thinking a bit about the Mitchell Report. Just more "evidence" about widespread cheating in professional sports (although, I gather that there is very little real evidence in the Mitchell Report). Anyway, what I have to say is this:

For me, the whole point of racing my bike is to test myself. The point is to transform yourself into the athlete that you want to be by training, eating, sleeping, sacrificing things that detract from your goal. Satisfaction comes, not from beating other people, but from the realization that your placements and your improvement are a result of your hard work. I don't understand how someone could be satisfied with their achievements if they knew that they came, at least in part, as a result of their cheating.


Photo by Andrea Tucker

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Musings

Aghh... I just wrote a nice long post, and somehow it got eaten before I could actually post it. I will try to reconstruct...

So, hockey was OK Sunday night, but I didn't feel like the fitness was very good. In our game, fitness makes a big difference; for the most part, everyone has roughly the same skill level. Still, my hockey fitness could be much better. It's the little things I catch myself doing when I get tired that bug me: making a looping turn instead of stopping, not going after loose pucks as hard as I should, etc. I think that improving that stuff would make me one of the better players in our game.

There was an article in the Detroit News today about Nicklas Lidstrom's durability. The guy has only missed 22 games in the 16 seasons that he's been with the Red Wings. Pretty incredible! He thinks that part of his durability and longevity has to do with his conditioning. There was an article in the paper this summer about Chris Chelios that said the same thing.

I did my first strength workout in quite a while last night. It went much better than I expected, especially the upper body stuff. I think that the Paleo nutrition plan has helped me maintain a little more strength than I could have in the past. I'm a little achy today, but not too bad.

Tonight I tried out a slightly modified version of one of Ross's "Enhanced Interval Training" workouts: 400m run, 20 pushups, 2 minutes rest (Ross gave you less rest). I made it through 6 intervals before I called it a night. I was going to do 7, but I had really slowed down by my 6th run, so I called it good after 6. I may be a bit sore from this tomorrow. I'm not used to running so fast for that long.

Friday, December 07, 2007

2007 Season Recap

So, the 2007 season is in the books. It's a good time to look back and see how things went.

My goal for the mountain bike season was to finish the Stony TT in less than 55 minutes. Since I ended up going to Alaska, I didn't race the Stony TT. It's hard to say if I would have managed 55 minutes or not; I think I would have been close. In general though, I felt like I had a pretty good year on the mountain bike.

My goal for the cross season was to race well enough to feel comfortable moving up to the "Killer B's" for next year. I accomplished a lot this year in 'cross. I got rid of my "hop", I feel better on technical parts, I learned what I need to do at the start, and my fitness improved until the last couple races. Anyway, I feel good about moving up for next year.

The other major change I made late this year was switching to a Paleo nutrition plan. I've been really happy with how this has worked for me (even though I have to cook more) so I'll be sticking with it.

Speaking of next year, I think there are two main things I need to work on. The first is technical riding (especially cornering and descending); the fundamental drills I worked on in the backyard seemed to help, but I started them pretty late this season. The second thing I need to work on is developing leg strength. The last 'cross race at Waterford drove it home again for me.

Greetings!

Greetings from the land of Not Training. I've had a pretty relaxing week, but we've had people in the house working on the kitchen, so things aren't exactly normal either.

I went for a short run Tuesday night and last night. I picked up some new running shoes (pictured); they're spikeless cross-country racing shoes. So far, I really like them. They're super light and I can tell that they're making my feet work. My feet and calves got a little sore the first time I ran in them, but it's been getting better ever since. Even though the shoes are very breathable, my feet haven't gotten cold yet (last night, it was in the high teens); I'm wearing thin wool socks when I run in them. On a slightly warmer day when it's wet or slushy, I may have a problem though.

I went 5 rounds with the heavy bag last night too. By the end, it had started leaking again. I called Everlast earlier this year to see what they'd do to resolve the problem, and they offered to let me buy a new bladder for $60. How nice! I tried a temporary repair, which obviously didn't hold, so now I'm done with it. I'm going to chuck the bladder and fill the bag like a traditional bag (with sawdust and padding). I figure that the bag is rated to hold 80lbs, so it shouldn't matter if it's water or something else.

I got Ross's latest offering this week too, Full Throttle Conditioning. Good stuff in there, as always. He makes a nice analogy at the beginning about fatigue "locking up" your "toolbox of athletic abilities". It's kind of hard to explain without going into the whole thing, but it was definitely nice.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Waterford Race

We got the weather they predicted last night. A couple inches of snow, plus a little ice on top of that. It rained just a little during the race this morning. It was tough going through the course, you had to break through the snow and ice to hit solid ground; it felt even tougher on the paved track.

Anyway, I felt decent on my warm-up laps. It was tough going but I felt OK, and I felt pretty good around the slippery corners. I lined up on the front row at the end.

I knew I was in trouble right off the bat when the race started. The pace was a lot higher than I expected, even Mark Caffyn went by me at the start (nothing against Mark, but he doesn't usually start faster than me). By the time we hit the grass, I had recovered a bit, and was back up in 7th or so. Still, the guys up front were really laying it down. I managed to get past a few guys who started fast and faded fast and I finished the first lap in 5th.

On the second lap, John Osgood went by me at a pretty good clip. Shortly after that, I fell on slippery corner. I got up quickly, but then I botched the remount after the runup (I got on the bike too fast when I needed to run to a flat spot). My fall and stall after the remount helped John open a big gap. Another guy also got by me and had a little gap during that sequence.

I worked my way back around the "other guy" on the third lap, but the gap up to John was really big. I kept pushing, just in case someone fell or whatever, but I didn't pick up any more spots. So, I ended up finishing 6th, one spot off the podium. A bit disappointing, but I'm not sure what I would have done differently today.

So, what happened here? My fitness felt OK, but the course conditions highlighted one of the weaknesses I identified earlier this year, Force (in Friel lingo). The snow covering the course made it almost like riding through a giant sandpit (Mark's analogy). I think it really favored guys that were heavier and stronger, especially in the early laps (it got a little easier near the end once we'd worn a line through the snow). Looking at the podium, you saw guys that were all considerably bigger than me. Certainly, some of them might have beaten me on a clear course, but I don't think everyone would have.

Couple more points:

- I need to re-examine my nutrition during the Peak and Race phases. As of this morning, I'd lost 6 lbs since the Peak phase started. Yeah, some of this is upper body muscle (since I also stop lifting during the Peak/Race phases) and a little is fat, but at 6 lbs, I think I'm also losing lower body muscle. That's a bad thing...

- I wonder if I should have taken a little air out of my tires today. I ran them at 30psi, same as usual, but I wonder if I'd have been better off at maybe 25 psi (or less)? I decided not to try it, since I've never ridden with pressures that low.

I'm not going to worry about this stuff too much just yet. My plan is to just enjoy being done with bike racing for a little while (and to drink some beer!).

Friday, November 30, 2007

Race Weather Forecast

Forecast for Saturday night... snow storm.

Forecast for Sunday morning... rain / ice mix.

Put it all together and you get epic race conditions! The course is going to be full of snow, ice, mud, and pain! I'm so cranked up for this race I can hardly sit still!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Numbers Don't Lie

I had a good backyard cyclocross practice session last night. There was still snow on the ground, so I worked a bit on cornering as well as my usual barrier stuff. As of this morning though, they're predicting rain for Sunday. Doh! I felt pretty comfortable with my bike handling in the snow; I just need to stay loose and look where I want to go. I did notice that I got a little more winded than usual during my practice. In reality, it's because it takes more work to ride through the snow; unfortunately, it also feeds my "my fitness is going to crap because I haven't been doing anything for a month" neurosis...

What happens when you try to peak for a few races is that your training volume drops way down (in my case, roughly cut in half) but intensity goes up. When you're used to riding every day though, and then you start riding every other day (even though you're going really hard), it feels like you're not riding enough and your fitness is slipping. Anyway, I started worrying about this last night and then this afternoon again.

Tonight, I did the Spinervals workout "No Slackers Allowed". It's a pretty intense anaerobic workout, good for keeping the race engine tuned up. I felt pretty bad during the workout (not unusual), but my average power and the distance I rode were almost identical (actually, slightly higher) to when I did this workout 3 weeks ago! Intellectually, I understand that this means my fitness hasn't fallen off much, but I'm still not feeling good about it yet. Maybe it will sink in tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sprints

"Losers quit when they're tired, winners quit when they win."
- Unknown (to me anyway)

More work on the cars last night. This time I put the snow tires on my car; there was no time pressure, so, of course, everything went quickly and easily. I also put a new battery in my car. The old one was 6 years old, and starting to show some signs of weakness. The new battery should be good (relatively inexpensive) insurance that I won't get stuck somewhere this winter.

I decided to do a relatively short sprint workout last night. I still wasn't feeling 100% recovered, so I opted for that instead of some longer intervals. It ended up being a pretty fun workout. I was really focused on going all out for every interval (it's not so hard when the interval is only 10 seconds long). I don't know if it was physically the optimal thing to do, but, mentally, I think it worked well for me.

I ended up hitting 971W for peak power ouput during the workout. I don't normally pay attention to peak power, but about halfway through the workout, I noticed I had hit 943W. After that, I kept trying to bump it up, I was trying to hit 1000W. I was still pretty happy with 971W; I'm sure that's a new PB for me.

In my copious free time, I've been trying to figure out how to win the race on Sunday. Step 1 is easy (to figure out), I just need to stay with the lead group. I was very close to being able to do this at Munson, but I couldn't quite hang on. Part of the problem there was that I didn't get close enough to the back rider. I was trailing off 5 feet or so and wasn't getting much drafting benefit. Step 2 is much harder... assuming I can stay with the lead group, how do I break away? There's at least one guy that usually finishes up front that I don't want to end up in a sprint with.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rest Day

Yesterday's rest day wasn't as restful as I'd hoped. We had a pretty decent little snowstorm in the afternoon, so I scrambled around trying to get Sarah's snow tires on her car. She had to go back out and coach last night. Of course, the tires had leaked a bit over the summer, so they all had about 20psi in them... definitely not enough. After I got that wrapped up, I shoveled the driveway. I probably didn't need to, but I wanted to keep it from icing up today.

I guess it really wasn't too bad, but I would have rather just lounged around instead. I was in bed by 8:30pm. I'm not sure that I'm fully recovered today, but I'll do a hard ride tonight anyway... it's my last week after all.

I'm considering the possibility of a snowy race this weekend. I expect that the snow we have now will melt by Sunday, but you never know. Right now, they're also predicting that it will snow on Sunday. The recommendations I've found are to run tire pressures low in the snow... so, I'll probably stick with my normal pressure of 30psi.

I ended up riding in the snow a bit this past Sunday. I didn't have any traction issues, but I was generally taking corners pretty easy. The big thing I noticed was that braking was much worse. I think it was taking several wheel revolutions for the pads and rim to clean up. I didn't shift much, but that may also be an issue.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Georgia

I came back from Savannah, Georgia this afternoon. I had a nice trip visiting some of Sarah's family this week. I kept the diet pretty clean and got lots of sleep, so I'm feeling pretty good today.

The weather was nice, mid-70's most of the time. The city of Savannah is pretty cool, there are lots of nicely restored buildings and squares. We poked around the city some on Wednesday. I went for a run Thursday morning. Since I wanted an anaerobic effort, I did sprint intervals for about 20 minutes. On Friday, Sarah and I went on a kayak tour. It was quite a bit different than the kayaking we did in Alaska. We had to contend with a lot more wind and current on Friday; I had fun paddling through the waves though.

It was a little disappointing to come home to some snow, but the weather was good enough to ride. Unfortunately, it was dark by the time I was ready, so I rode the trainer. I'm planning to ride outside tomorrow for a while. I need to drill 'cross skills for a little while anyway.

Here's a familiar-looking guy enjoying his race at Munson:


(Photo: Andrea Tucker)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Still Fired Up

“If I am still standing at the end of the race, hit me with a board and knock me down, because that means I didn’t run hard enough.”
- Steve Jones

It hasn't taken me long to get fired up for the Waterford race, it hit me driving home from work last night. Another wave hit me last night before bed and I had trouble falling asleep. Too bad I have to wait two weeks! I really want to crack the top 3 at this race. I know it will depend on who shows up, but I'm going to do everything I can to make it happen. The key for me will be to stay with the lead group for the whole first lap and make that first selection. Then I'll have to figure out how to stay there...

I'm sitting in 3rd place right now for the overall series, but, assuming the fast guys show up at Waterford, I probably won't keep it. The most likely scenario is that I'll drop to 4th or 5th overall.

Anyway, there's nothing I can do about who shows up or how well they race, so I'm just going to really focus on getting myself ready for the next two weeks. After that, the season's over and I can take a break.

I'm heading down to Georgia this evening for the week. Once we get down there, it should be pretty relaxing. I'll try to do a hard run on Thursday, but that'll be about it. I was up at 4am to ride this morning before work; I was definitely not recovered from the race and hockey on Sunday.


Also, a picture from Steve Balogh from the Munson race...



Sunday, November 18, 2007

Munson CX - 2007 Edition

"30 seconds, c'mon, anyone can suffer for 30 seconds!"
- Coach Troy

This morning was the 2007 edition of the Munson Park Cyclocross race. We got typical Munson weather too, cold and windy.

I got to the park on time, but I was slow getting my stuff ready, so I was feeling some time pressure for the warmup. As a result, I rode a little more aggressively in my warmup laps than I usually do, but it seemed to work out OK.

I got a good position at the start, front row in the middle (on the gravel path instead of on the grass). At the whistle, I made it into a group of 4 at the front. There was a small gap behind me to Mark C (FRCC) and John O (TSB). I stayed with the group pretty well until we hit the volleyball court, about halfway through the lap. I tried to ride it but got bogged down and had to get off and run. That allowed the other guys to open a gap that I was never able to fully close. So, that left me in no-man's land, working in the wind between two groups. I considered sitting up and letting Mark and John catch me so I could draft with them, but the gap I had was big enough that I didn't want to let it go.

I rode the second lap basically by myself, just out of reach of that front group. At the end of the lap, Mark finally caught me and pulled me down the windy front straight (thanks Mark!). I went back around Mark on the hill after the first barriers on the third lap. Since I was tucked in behind Mark crossing the line, I didn't see how many laps we had left, but I was hearing the announcer call "one to go" as other racers were crossing the line. It was sort of a critical point, because it was going to affect how I rode the rest of that lap, especially with Mark right with me.

I saw Sarah after the volleyball court and asked her how many laps I had to do. She thought it was one, but she wasn't sure either. I decided to ride as if it was one to go. I could see that Mark was just a few bike lengths behind me when the course doubled back on itself. When I got off the hill for the last time to go around the reservoir, I decided it was time to punch it. I couldn't see or hear Mark, but I kept after it (including that last hard effort into the wind). It was the last lap, and I finished a couple bike lengths ahead of Mark.

So, I got another 4th place, which I'm happy with, but I was hoping to break the top 3 this weekend. While it was my mistake in the volleyball pit that opened the gap, I don't think I would have ultimately been able to stay with that group. Especially with the wind, my threshold power was just a little too low to hang with those guys today. The Waterford course in a couple weeks will be much different (but potentially also windy), so we'll see how that goes. It'll be the last race of the season!

Last point is about how my tapering has worked. I definitely feel better than I did when I tried to taper last year. Last year I felt like my fitness really dropped off when I tried to taper, but I'm not feeling that way this year. I think the key has been going really hard when I do ride during the week. The legs felt very good during the first lap today, I didn't feel that lactic acid buildup like I usually do.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cyclocross Linkage

Jeff Weinert's blog. Jeff's a local guy that always seems to finish at the front of the 'cross races in Michigan.

A couple of links about Jon Baker, an American racing in Europe this Winter. Here and here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fired Up!

My motivation to race has been very high this week. It started Tuesday morning, I was just fired up on my way into work thinking about the race this weekend. I've pretty much been like that ever since. That's one of the nice things about the Race phase; the reduced training volume leads to pretty high motivation.

I did some nice hard workouts on the trainer tonight and Tuesday night. Last night, I got out and did a little backyard cyclocross practice before it got dark, and I also went for a short run. I've been revisiting my Chi Running book, so I was focusing on technique on my run. My calves are a little tight today, but not too bad. I was planning to run again tomorrow night, but unless my calves are fully recovered, I'll skip it to make sure I feel good for the race.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hockey

I played hockey again on Sunday night. For some reason, I never seem to play as well on nights when I don't race as I do on nights when I have raced... doesn't make much sense to me. Anyway, my legs felt dead and I didn't play particularly well. I think part of the problem was my nutrition over the weekend. I didn't do a very good job about eating lots of fruits and veggies; which means, on the Paleo diet, not too many carbs. I'm sure it had nothing to do with me not being able to stay out of our leftover Halloween candy corn...


The second weird thing was that there was an on-ice "incident" earlier in the day that had the rink running about 30 minutes behind schedule. We found out from the Zamboni guy that someone had fallen and hit his head pretty hard during open skate. Anyway, it meant that we started late, and finished late, and so I only got 5.5 hours of sleep. (Not that there's really a huge difference between 5.5 and 6 hours of sleep.) I'll get to bed early tonight though.


Also, a nice article about why people do what they do, and a link to a quick story about a 95-year-old man who set a new (age group) World Record in the 100m.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Running Article

I had a nice ride out at Pontiac Lake this morning. It was the first time I've ever cleaned the whole trail. There were a couple of steep climbs near the end of the trail that I've had trouble with. I really committed to making the first one today, but once I made the first one, I knew I had to make the second one.

Once I came home, I did a little cyclocross practice in the backyard. I felt like my barrier and remounting techniques were a little sloppy last weekend. I worked a bit on shouldering the bike for runups too. It's something that I seem to be doing more and more this year. The shouldering motion is a little slower than suitcasing or pushing the bike, but I feel like running with the bike shouldered is much more efficient. The key for me today was finding the right spot to grab the downtube so that my elbow didn't bang into the seat tube.


I ran across an interesting article about the state of distance running in the US. He cover, among other things: barefoot running, nasal breathing and anaerobic training.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Peaking

This week I'm continuing to work on peaking for my last two races. Basically, I'm doing hard rides every other day and taking the other days off. I'm trying to keep the hard days really hard and the easy days pretty easy. I think one of my mistakes last year was not going hard enough on the hard days during the Peak and Race phases.

My ride on Tuesday was just OK (I probably wasn't quite recovered from the races last weekend), but I felt pretty good tonight. Unfortunately, it gets dark so early now that I'm having to do these rides on the trainer. I'll try to do some riding outside this weekend though.


Here's an update on Rasmussen's TdF scandal. He now admits to lying about his whereabouts to the UCI, but he still claims that he didn't dope. I probably wouldn't have linked to the article, but there's an interesting table at the end showing his hematocrit and hemogloblin levels.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Colin Powell

Presentation from Colin Powell on leadership. Some interesting points here.

Vets Park - Race 2

First off, a little more news about Ryan Shay. He apparently had an enlarged heart and was told, at some point, he would likely need a pacemaker to help address this. So, his dad thought that Ryan likely died of cardiac arrest. I also just saw that the first autopsy results were inconclusive.


So, getting down to my race this morning. The course was a little easier and a little shorter today. I also felt better going into it; I got lots of sleep last night and my legs felt pretty good (I thought they seemed a little dead yesterday).

The race actually went about like it did yesterday. I got off to a very good start; I rode a decent chunk of the first lap in second place (two of the guys up front fell early). I couldn't keep up the pace though and had to back off. After the first lap, it looked about like yesterday (just with some different people), the first two guys were gone, and then I was in a loose group of 4, and then there was another big gap.

Unlike yesterday, I wasn't able to stay in very close contact with the group and was dangling in 6th (off the podium) for most of the race. In particular, on the 3rd lap, Mark put in a pretty big attack on a TSB guy; I wasn't watching closely enough and they got a big gap on me. Still, the hills were wearing them down, and I kept working and had nearly closed it all up again toward the end of the 4th lap.

The TSB guy fell on an off-camber corner late in the 4th lap; he did a good job getting up quickly, but the damage was done and I got by him. Once I made the pass, I punched it, thinking I might be able to push the rest of the way. This also had the effect of closing the gap to Mark; Mark saw me coming and wasn't having any of that, so he cranked it up and finished ahead of me. I kept my gap to the TSB guy and finished (a lucky) 5th.

So, even though I felt better today, I raced a little worse. I just didn't have it in me to close gaps when I needed to in the middle laps today. Still, it was a good result. I'm basically where I wanted to be for the year. My goal was to do well enough in the C races this year that I'd feel comfortable moving up to the B's next year. I doubt that I'll be battling for podium spots in the B's, but I shouldn't be getting completely crushed either.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Vets Park - Race 1

We've got a cyclocross double-header going on this weekend. Today was race 1, tomorrow is race 2. This year is the first year I've done races on back-to-back days; the UCI race weekend wasn't too bad, but we'll see how this one goes.

So, the race this morning went well for me. The course suited me well, lots of climbing. I went out hard at the start, like the last race. And, like the last race, I quickly found myself in 3rd behind a couple guys who looked intent on checking out; I had to let them go. Near the end of the lap, it became obvious to me that I was still going too hard and had to back off. Once that happened, a few people started coming by. I tried to keep the gaps small; the one exception was a guy in a plain blue jersey who I thought would surely pop and come back to me (I was wrong, he finished 3rd).

The bulk of the second and third laps saw me in a group with English Mark and 2 Team Sandbag guys (the Team Sandbag guys are usually not, as their name suggests, sandbaggers). I had some trouble staying with the group on the 2nd lap (Mark, in particular), but I did, and the third lap was a little easier. What became clear to me riding with this group was that I could take them on the hills; I didn't play this card until the last lap though.

So, on the last lap (4), the group was still basically together. Mark was ahead of me, but we had gotten by the TSB guys (if I'm remembering correctly). Mark was tiring a bit, and after the first barrier section I found myself in the front of the group. Still, the other guys were within striking distance and we had a long way to go. I decided that I'd try to use my climbing advantage and open a gap well before we got near the finish. My idea was to punch it hard up every hill and then ride at our normal pace on the flats. It took a couple of hills, and then the gap started to open. By the end, Mark was a couple corners behind me, and I could relax a little to the finish. I wound up 4th (another podium); about 30s behind 3rd.

Tomorrow, they're going to tweak the course a little bit and we'll basically ride it backward from today. The basic character should be the same though, so I'm hoping for another good day.


I came home today to check out the Olympic Marathon Trials coverage. The big story was not the race, unfortunately, but that one of the runners collapsed and died about 5 miles in. Some articles from ESPN here and here. I'll be interested to see what they find out about the cause; it's hard to fathom an elite marathoner collapsing 5 miles into a race. My guess is that they will say "previously undiagnosed heart disorder". Assuming I'm right, this is one of the reasons I've made my diet change; we're seeing increased scientific and anecdotal evidence of a link between high-carb diets and heart disease (that Shay was on a high-carb diet is my assumption #2). Anyway, that part of the race news has me bummed out this afternoon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Charts

"I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you've probably misunderstood what I've said."
- Alan Greenspan

Not a typical Chainline quote, but it struck me as funny.

I got through all of my tests except CP30 last week (no retests yet though). I'm not sure if I'll be able to, or if I want to take the time, to do my CP30 and my retests this week. Maybe I'll do those in two weeks, on the free weekend between the Ann Arbor and Monroe races. So, I'm going to go ahead and post my charts now.

Here's the Critical Power chart. It shows some nice across-the-board improvements, but I guess I always want a little more.



Here's my updated "Power Profiling" chart. I'm not using quite the same time intervals as are recommended for this chart. I use 12s power instead of 5s power, and 6min power instead of 5min power. It just means those numbers will look a little low for me (I'm really not sure how much difference there would be between 5s and 12s anyway). The hollow squares are my February numbers. My February 5s number was so low that it didn't register on the chart. There were big improvements on the "5s" and 1min numbers, and solid improvements on the "5min" and FT numbers.



Just keep in mind, for both charts, that my mid-range (1-12min) interval power numbers weren't so good in February because I was just coming off the Preparation phase and had pretty crappy anaerobic fitness. Also keep in mind that I'm measuring power of my "calibrated" trainer, so my absolute power numbers may not be accurate. For example, I don't really believe that I have Cat2/3 5min and FT power.

I want to keep working on developing my Force (strength) in the off-season. I think that it's just the raw strength to turn over big gears is what's holding me back on those short intervals.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Jack Lalanne

"Life is a battlefield. Life is survival of the fittest."
- Jack Lalanne

I was looking through Ross's blog, where he had a video clip posted from Jack Lalanne's old show. It got me looking around for other clips. Here are some of my favorites:

How to Lift 1000 Pounds

Life is a Battlefield

The Early Death

Sugarholics

How to be a Champion

Friday, October 26, 2007

End of Season Testing

No racing for me this weekend, so I'm using the opportunity to complete my end-of-season testing. I'm doing the full battery of Critical Power tests that I did in the Spring. It was through doing these tests that I identified some weaknesses I hadn't previously been aware of.

Last night, I did the CP12 test. I thought it went OK, I put out an average of 259W, but I still had a little left in the tank. The result looks good when you compare it to my last CP12 test from February, when I put out 233W. This morning, I compared my new CP12 result to my last CP30 test in May, where I did 254W. Since I'm also hoping for an improvement in my CP30 test this month, my CP12 result isn't looking so good anymore. So, I think I'll probably wait until I've finished my other tests and then repeat CP12.

Tonight I did my CP0.2 and CP1 tests. The CP0.2 test went fine, I maintained about 700W (maybe 725W); the averaging function on my computer doesn't work well over 12 seconds, so I have to eyeball it. This is a nice improvement over the 600W I did in March.

The CP1 test didn't go so well. I was feeling cocky and tried to hold 500W, but it was definitely too much, and I crapped out at about 45s. I rested a bit and tried again for 475W, but I forgot to start my computer, and I realized it at about 20s, so I expended quite a bit of energy in that attempt. I tried a 3rd time and held 441W for the minute. So, I got a number "in the books", but I can do better. I think 475W is probably doable for me, so I'll try this test again in a few days.

I'll post my critical power chart and "power profiling" chart when I'm finished. They're kind of interesting to look at.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lower Huron Pictures

Pictures by Steve Balogh. It was interesting to look through Steve's other pictures of the C-race; a lot of people were crashing at the sand pit.


Brian, before his derailleur exploded... I was looking for a picture of him running, but no one seems to have gotten that.


Photos by Andrea Tucker... very good, as always.



Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Local Cycling Video

Video shot about ~15 years ago featuring riders from my local shop. Watch the whole thing, the last few minutes are the best.

Riders Ready

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lower Huron CX - 07

Sunday was the Lower Huron cyclocross race. I didn't expect much going in; as I posted on Thursday, I was pretty tired by the end of the week. I did decide to skip my ride Thursday night, but I did a hard trainer ride Friday and a semi-laid back mountain bike ride Saturday. I had a pretty bad race at Lower Huron last year too. It was cold and rainy, I made a lot of little mistakes and my fitness wasn't very good. So, like I said, I wasn't expecting much.


One of the things that happened last year was that I got snowed under at the start. The begining of the course was basically the same this year, there was a long paved straight (into a strong headwind) ending in a sharp left-hander. At the whistle, I went hard, but nothing too crazy. We quickly formed into a line I think, I don't know because I ended up second in line! I was OK with that, I figured I'd just sit there and let this guy pull me to the grass. About 3/4 of the way down the straight, another guy pulled alongside the first and they rode next to each other. No problem for me, now I had two guys blocking the wind for me. Unfortunately, that was the last time I got any help in the wind.


Things were pretty close on the first lap, the first two guys had pulled away a little, but there were a few of us trading spots behind them. When the course doubled back on itself, I could also see that a chasing group was close.


For the second lap, I was right with a Cycle to Fitness guy. I had passed him going onto the pavement, and he wasn't interested in helping me out in the wind, so I pulled him all the way down. He passed me back running through the sandpit. This basically was how the race went until near the end. He and I were swapping spots back and forth. Usually I could work by him on the open flat parts of the course, and then he'd run hard and make it up.


On the third lap, the CtF guy had opened a little gap by the time we got to the pavement, but I pushed and closed it before we hit the grass. I had planned to back off the pace just a touch on the third lap, but I didn't want to back off too much. I knew that two other Rhinos were just behind me (in talking with them after the race, this is where they thought they could catch me). The CtF guy looked like he was tiring a little bit about halfway through the lap, so I attacked and tried to open a gap. He went with me though, so I didn't get my gap. This was the point, I think, where we gapped the group chasing us.


On the fourth lap, I was in front on the pavement again, I tried to use some lapped traffic and the edge of the road to keep him from getting a good draft, but I don't think it helped much. Things were still tight until a barrier section about halfway through the lap. My rear tire hit the second barrier hard and I dropped my chain. I got it fixed pretty quickly; I kept expecting the guys behind me to come by, but they didn't. The damage was done though, the CtF guy was way ahead of me, and, unless he had a problem, I knew I wasn't going to catch him. I worked hard for the rest of the lap, but nothing unusual happened, and I cruised in for 5th place.


The other notable point about the race involved our new Rhino, Brian. Brian's rear derailleur exploded (for some reason unknown to us) at the start of his last lap. Instead of DNF'ing, Brian picked up his bike and ran it the rest of the way through the lap! If I had thought faster, I would have taken my bike to the pit and let him use it. At that point though, my bike was in the car, and it didn't occur to me until it was too late.


Anyway, 5th place... by far my best finish of the year, and my first podium (thankfully, the podium in 'cross is 5 places). A couple things contributed, first, some of the usual faster guys weren't there. Still, I beat English Mark, and he's been consistently beating me all year, so that wasn't the only reason. Second thing is that my high-end fitness is finally here. Basically, I was able to push for the whole race (unlike Stony, where I could only push for about 20 minutes), and I felt strong enough to make some tactical decisions, like my couple hard efforts on the third lap.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Week 3 Fatigue

“The more I run, the more I want to run, and the more I live a life conditioned and influenced and fashioned by my running. And the more I run, the more certain I am that I am heading for my real goal: to become the person I am.”
- George Sheehan, M.D.

Well, it's about halfway through week 3 of a Build phase for me, and I'm starting to feel the accumulated fatigue. This is normal for me though; the fatigue always sets in at about this time in my Build phases. I need to be a little careful about what I do for the rest of the week now. This is one of the times when you want to overreach a little and train through the fatigue, but you also don't want to go too far and wind up sick.

On Tuesday night, we still had 'cross practice, even though it was cool and raining a bit. Only about 8 people showed up. We set up a short course and most of the people did moderate-paced laps. I put in some harder laps, since Tuesday is usually one of the days I target for more intensity. I made it a little game where I'd sit up and let a big gap open and then I'd see how long it took me to close it down.

Last night I went out to Indian Springs and rode in the park until it got dark, probably an hour and a half. It's getting dark so early now that it's hard to ride after work.

I had planned to do a hard mountain bike ride tonight. It's supposed to rain all day today though, so I may end up riding the trainer. If I'm still feeling tired tonight, I may also end up not riding at all and ride tomorrow instead. It'll all just depend on the weather and how I'm feeling.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Last Push

I had the realization yesterday that this week is sort of my last "hard" week of the year. True, I'll still go hard during the upcoming Peak phase, but volume is reduced enough that it seems much easier.


It's been a little while since I last posted. Not too much new going on; I'm feeling really good right now, which is typical for me during the Build 2 phase (at least, until the end of the week, when I'll be feeling very fatigued). I had a great interval ride on the mountain bike last Friday night. I rode the trainer early Saturday morning, since I was at the Michigan game basically all day. Sunday, I did a short backyard cyclocross practice and played hockey at night.


I'm still doing the Paleo nutrition thing (I've decided I shouldn't call it a diet). I've actually been spending a lot of time cooking and preparing food over the past few days. It's kind of a pain to cook so much, but I do like eating "real" food all the time. I suspect I'll get a little more efficient as I do it more too.


Basically, my impressions of this nutrition plan haven't changed since my last post. I'm definitely eating a higher volume of food, but it's low enough in calories that I need to be careful to eat enough (this is, I guess, how people lose weight on low-carb diets). The other feeling I get now is that my head is very clear all the time; I'm not saying I was foggy before, but I can't think of a better way to describe it. I also haven't been bonking badly (or at all) in my workouts like I expected (from what I've read, this is common at first for people changing to a Paleo nutrition plan).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Paleo Kung Fu

I've been reading The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel. Obviously, I'm not looking to make diet changes to lose weight, but to increase performance and increase my resistance to getting sick. Essentially, the recommendation of the book is to eat only lean meats, seafood, fruits and vegetables except for certain periods of time before, during and after exercise, when you need to take in more carbohydrates for energy.


I'm not quite finished with the book, but I've been gradually implementing some of the changes. Here's what I've noticed:


1. If I do this, I will need to eat a higher volume of food. Meat and fruit and vegetables are nutritionally dense, but they tend to not be calorically dense. I worked out a sample menu the other day, and I'd need to eat about twice the volume of what I eat now to get the same amount of calories.


2. One of the features of this diet is that you're generally eating foods lower on the glycemic index. I've noticed the impact of this change already; I'm not feeling energy surges and lulls during the day as much as I did before.


3. I recovered really well from my racing and hockey on Sunday. I also slept a lot Monday and Tuesday nights (9-10 hrs each), but I've never felt so good on Tuesday night since I started hockey. I'm not sure if this is a result of the diet or being good about getting to bed.


4. I followed the book's recommendation for pre-workout eating last night before 'cross practice, which is quite a bit different than what I'd normally eat. I don't know if that was it, or if it was the sleep, or something else, but I do know that I threw down in our mini-races last night. My legs felt good and I rode really well. (At least I rode well for our first mini-race. I crashed twice on the second one, so it was harder to judge... but I was riding near the front until the second crash.) When we gathered again after the first race, people were like, "What's gotten into you?"


So, I don't know if it's the diet or what, it seems like it's too early for me to notice a difference, but points 3 and 4 are really what Friel is saying will happen. The idea is that you recover faster (and don't get sick as much!) so you can do high-quality workouts more frequently... and that's how you get faster!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Stony Creek Cyclocross - 07

And this old man in front of me
Holding canes and ruby rings
Is like containing an explosion when he sings
But with every chance to set himself on fire
He just ends up doing the same thing

- White Stripes "Little Cream Soda"

Another weekend, another 'cross race. This time at Stony Creek. The weather has been wildly different every time I've done this race. In '05 we had snow, in '06 the weather was mild, and this year it was hot and humid.

The course was pretty typical for Stony, there's only so much they can do there. The defining feature was probably the long running section along the beach. First, you had to go through a sand volleyball court (which was rideable), then a short stretch of grass before you hit the beach. The beach section was long and had a couple turns, so the C-racers were running it. Once you got off the beach, there was a short uphill section leading back to the start/finish line. Definitely tough going.


I'd been questioning my effort a little bit over the past few races. Not that I was out there cruising, but I felt like I had a little too much left at the end. I've also been disappointed in the way I've been getting hung up at the start. So, this week, I went hard at the start. I wanted to get to the first relatively tight corner near the front, since I figured people might be slowing more than necessary there or crashing. I didn't get a great start initially, but I worked my way up quickly and was maybe in the top 15 by the corner. Fortunately, my concerns were unfounded and everyone made it through the corner OK.

I had planned to back off a little a little at that point, but I didn't. There were several guys in front of me that I knew I could beat (and aren't great technical riders), so I wanted to get around them early. I did get past these guys pretty quickly, but the result was a pretty intense first lap.

Things were spreading out by lap 2. Again, I thought about backing off, but I could see that English Mark wasn't too far ahead of me, so I tried to keep that gap constant. Another pretty fast lap.



At the start of lap 3, I knew I had to back off or I was going to blow up big time before the race was over. So, I backed off and let the gap in front of me open up. I had a big gap to the group behind me, so I was hoping I could more-or-less keep it until the end. By the end of the lap, I was really suffering. I stalled about halfway through the volleyball court and had to get off and run. I also slowed down a bit running on the beach.

I tried to pick it up again for the last lap (and my lap times show that I did, a little), but I was about cooked. This was the first 'cross race this year where I really felt like quitting on the last lap (I also felt like throwing up). I actually take this as a good sign; I usually have my best races when I've gone hard enough to feel like quitting on the last lap. Anyway, I didn't have much punch left in my legs, and I got caught and passed by the group behind me. I nearly picked off one of these guys going to the line, but he saw me coming and turned it up enough to keep his spot. So, another race, another 11th place.

So, there were a couple good things that came out of this race. One was that I was really happy with my effort, even though I misjudged the pacing a little bit. I had nothing left by the end of the race. The second thing was that I can now say I've stopped the hop! All of my remounts were good (in terms of hopping) except the last one, which is saying something since I was off the bike 3-4 times per lap. Now I need to work on finding the pedals quickly when I remount.

Hockey was tougher than usual Sunday night. It was humid in the rink, and I think I was feeling the effects of going harder in the race. I was involved in a big collision where one (or both) of us wasn't watching where they were going. My neck was sore from it last night.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

'Cross Goodness

Awesome pictures from Andrea Tucker from the first two race weekends.








Monday, October 01, 2007

Bloomer CX - 07

“A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.”
- Vince Lombardi

I enjoyed my recovery time last week. I did a pedaling technique session on the trainer Thursday night, and spent an hour working on cyclocross skills on Saturday. By the end of my session on Saturday, I had figured out how to jump on my bike without hopping, but I'm still very inconsistent. The key for me turned out to be to not worry about what my right leg was doing, and think about jumping early off my left foot. I think I was a little thrown off by people saying that "you don't just jump on your bike" in cyclocross. That's true, you don't just jump on your bike, but you do jump on your bike.

Sunday was the Bloomer Park CX race. I had my new tires on, my new Rhino kit, and my newfound ability to jump on the bike. I was really cranked up Sunday morning and feeling good about the race. I got a good warm-up in. I immediately noticed that the new tires rolled much faster than my old ones, and I didn't have any issues with grip on the wet grass. My remounts weren't very good in the warm-up though; that's the problem with learning a new skill one day and trying to immediately apply it the next.



I lined up a little late on the line. I ended up in the second row but on the outside. I didn't get a good start, in large part, because the guy in front of me stalled on his start. As a result, I was way back (maybe 20th position) for a lot of the first lap. Back that far in the pack, you run into some suspect bike handlers. Guys are wiping out on corners that shouldn't be too hard and hitting their brakes all over the place. By the end of the first lap, Sarah said I was around 16th place, but still not too far out of touch from the lead group.

There was still a lot of traffic on the second lap. I was riding near a couple Rhinos, Rob and Brian (Brian did well to stay with us through the second lap, I think this was only his 2nd 'cross race). I might have picked up a few spots, but I wasn't really pushing yet, and the pack was finally starting to thin out.


At the start of the third lap, Sarah yelled out that Rob and I were catching the leader's group. Early in the third lap, Rob was starting to fade, and I eventually went around him at the barriers (I don't think I've ever beaten Rob before... I credit the tires). I spent most of the third lap trying to reel in the next group; I had also started pushing a little harder again. I probably passed a few more people on the third lap (it's hard to remember now).




I was pushing hard on the last lap too, trying to go hard enough to make up time, but not so hard that I blew up. I finally reeled in the guys that I was chasing. I passed one guy in a little technical bit after the velodrome hill, and then I was off to the little singletrack section. Still, he had slowed me up a little, so the two South Lyon Cycle guys I was chasing had a little gap again. I had a little mishap on the singletrack, I think I rolled over a rock or stick, and the back tire slid out a bit. I got my foot out and stayed upright, but I lost momentum. Even so, I had nearly caught the South Lyon riders. On the paved section near the end, I put it into my big ring and started cranking. I didn't really attack hard until we rode through the pavilion. I was definitely going faster, but the South Lyon guys were on the edge of the road to the left, and I couldn't get by. (Nothing wrong with that on their part, they don't have to get out of the way to let me beat them.) Ultimately, I badly misjudged the finish and attacked too late. I ended up finishing 10th (as usual), but probably within a second of being 8th. English Mark ended up 7th, but I didn't check the time gap he had on my group. Basically though, I was happy with my race.

So, here's the takeaway:

  1. The Michelin Mud 2 tires are great. I wish I'd switched sooner. I'm really curious now about how much better tubulars would be. Maybe next year.

  2. My remounts still weren't very good. I need to keep working on them until it becomes automatic. Time picked up there could have been the difference between 10th and 8th.

  3. I was really happy with my cornering. I felt like I was picking up time on the more tehcnical parts of the course. I credit the Tuesday night practice for this.

  4. Fitness is getting better (I'm sure the rest week helped!).

Engineering

"I must have put a decimal point in the wrong place or something. #%*&. I always do that. I always mess up some mundane detail."
- Office Space

One of my original ideas for this blog was that it would be more technical, in terms of my engineering background as it applies to bike-related things. While I think that you can certainly see my over-the-top methodical and analytical approach to training and evaluating my performances, it's not been too technical. C'est la vie.

So, here's an article about how Felt Racing used CFD software to build their new time trial bike. If the picture is accurate, I really question modeling the cyclist/bike with bare feet, no pedals, and no rear derailleur.

Here's a second article that's totally not bike-related about how today's engineering students leave school unprepared to do real engineering work. I see this frequently in my job, where engineers roughly my age and younger tend to be sloppy in their work and don't have a good physical understanding of how things work and go together. Certainly, there are exceptions (I consider myself one), but we're definitely the exceptions rather than the norm. One of my complaints, even while I was in school, was all of the "partial credit" we got on problem sets and tests (where you'd get most of the points for doing the correct process, even if you got the wrong answer). For sure, doing the correct process is important, but, in the end, in the real world, getting the correct answer is what really matters.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Build 2 Phase

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
- Muhammad Ali

This week is a rest week for me, and I was definitely in need of one. It's been a long training block, but my training seemed inconsistent due to work interruptions and getting a little sick.

The week wraps up with a cyclocross race at Bloomer. I didn't do this race last year, but did it two years ago (my first 'cross race), and it is one of my favorite courses. It will be interesting to see how I feel fitness-wise for this race. In theory, it should be pretty good, given my limited riding this week, but I'm actually not that optimistic. I feel like my "high end" fitness is still not that good. Sure, I can ride at a moderately hard pace for a couple hours, but I don't feel like I can really go as hard as I need to for 30 minutes.

I'm trying to decide how I want to structure this next training block (Build 2 phase). When I originally planned it, I was going to treat the two races this month as B-priority. That means that I'd reduce my hours a bit in the week leading up to the race (from 7 to 4.5). I'm thinking now that, if I do this, it won't be enough training stress to build to a very good peak for the last 4 races. So, instead, I'm going to train through these two races so that I can build to a better peak for the last 4.

So, in the meantime, I want to work on the non-fitness aspects of 'cross. These are the little things that can move you up or down a few spots, but probably won't take you from the middle of the field to the front. For me, this means working on my remounts and being disciplined with my lines.

For the remounts, I'm guessing I lose as much as 2 seconds every time I get on the bike. On a typical 4-lap C race, with 2 running sections per lap, that means I lose 16 seconds over the entire race. 16 seconds doesn't seem like much, but it can easily cost you a few positions.

Being more precise with lines is another thing that can gain you a little time here and there. This was one of the things I was working on at practice Tuesday night. From watching the other races this weekend, it's obvious that the Elite guys pay attention to this. One thing that struck me this week was that there's a choice to be made between a line that preserves momentum but doesn't allow you to accelerate as early (geometric apex), and a line that doesn't preserve momentum as well but allows you to start your acceleration sooner (late apex). In car racing, you would almost always choose the latter, since it's a safer line and you don't care so much about burning a little extra fuel (except maybe in an endurance race). In a bike race though, I think that maybe preserving momentum is more important, since I only have so much fuel to burn (now that I think about it, this is also similar to racing low-powered karts). Regardless, after you've selected your line, it's important to hit your braking, turn-in and apex points as precisely as you can.


(Geometric Apex)


(Late Apex)

Before I forget, I timed a typical practice interval at the track this week. 4 laps on our course this week took me roughly 10 minutes (I forgot to stop my watch immediately when I finished, so I'm not exactly sure, but it's close enough). So, relative the UCI race this past weekend, that's equivalent to one lap; on a more typical course around here, it would be equivalent to about a lap and a half. Since we've mainly been doing 4 lap intervals at the track this year, it explains why I misjudged my pace on the first lap on Saturday.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Blogger Play

This is pretty cool. It's a slideshow of images being uploaded to Blogger. (They use filtering algorithms to keep inappropriate material out... I've been watching for a few minutes and haven't seen anything objectionable.) A warning though, it's mesmerizing...

UCI Cross

This past weekend was our annual local UCI cyclocross race. For the first time, I raced back-to-back days, which turned out to not be a big deal.

My race on Saturday was pretty interesting. I got to the start line a little late, so I was in the third row, but I was at the outside. The field was big, maybe 35 people, so I knew I had to get to the front quickly. The guy in front of me was on a full-suspension mountain bike, and maybe had platform pedals (I don't remember now), so I figured I'd be able to get by him pretty quick. In spite of a delay in starting the race (where we were just held at the line), I stayed very calm, and just thought about what I had to do. I generally don't get really nervous at the start, but I'm usually more tense than I was Saturday. It was a good place to be.



(That's me on the far left.)

So, at the start, I immediately started passing people on the outside. By the time the course narrowed, I was in 6th or so. For most of the first lap, I felt pretty good. The pace was hard, but not too uncomfortable, and I thought I'd be able to stay with the lead group. It was at a long false flat at the end of the lap that I realized things weren't going as well as they seemed. I finished the lap still with the lead group, but my legs were tiring. The second lap was much worse. Several people got around me and I crashed on a slow off-camber section. My legs had no snap. I was able to pick it up again a little for the third lap, and I made up some spots on guys who really went out too hard. I finished 11th; about what I typically did last year. It would have been lower if a couple guys hadn't crashed and dropped their chains at the end. I was pretty disappointed.

Afterward, I went home and got cleaned up, then I came back for the Elite race. There were some big names there, Jonathon Page, a former Swiss nat'l champ, the Canadian nat'l champ, Adam Myerson, Steve Tilford, plus all of the local fast guys. The whole thing was really cool; the pro's are extremely fast.


Here's what I learned watching the Elite race:

- That my lines aren't too bad, but I need to be more precise.

- The fastest guys do everything just a little better everywhere (although, compared to me, a lot better everywhere!) and are more consistent.

- They look for spots where there's more traction in corners, even if it's a little off line.

- They pump the terrain.

On Sunday, I had a little more nervous energy for the race. They had changed the course a little which made it a bit faster. During the warm-up laps, I inadvertantly showed a few of my competitors how to get around the trickiest corner on the course. Anyway, I lined up in a slightly better spot at the start, 2nd row this time and still on the outside. I went out hard again, but backed off very early, basically as soon as we got through the first real corner. I just tried to keep a steady pace for the first lap and a half. It meant that my position wasn't so good (maybe about 16th), but I was feeling much better. About halfway through the second lap I started pushing a little. I was riding with a pretty big group; I think that I should have been faster than these guys, but I was losing bits of time here and there to them (and noticeably, a couple seconds on every remount). Halfway through the third lap, I really started cranking it up. I was making up time and spots on guys who weren't doing the basics (like pedaling down shallow hills). Unfortunately, disaster struck on the last steep little hill. The line I was riding up the hill took me right against the tape. The guy in front of me was essentially on the same line, but he didn't make the hill and stopped. This left me with my wheel between him and the tape... no where to go! So, I had to get off and run, and I got passed by a few people. I pushed really hard for the rest of the lap and made up a few of those spots, but getting cut off on the hill definitely cost me a few positions. I ended up 14th, roughly in the middle of a group of 7 that were covered by 6 seconds.


Even though I finished worse on Sunday, I felt like I raced much better. My lap times were much more consistent Sunday, the first two were the same down to the second, and my third was a couple seconds quicker. On Saturday, my laps varied by as much as 30 seconds!


I watched the Elite race again on Sunday, it was still cool. Page and Michael Mueller (the former Swiss champ) crushed everybody both days. Then I helped clean up the course. Despite my bad race on Saturday, I really enjoyed the race weekend.

So, here's my laundry list of what I need to work on:

- I don't have particularly good cyclocross race fitness right now. Part of it this weekend was that I was fatigued from a long training block, but the other part was that I haven't been doing muscular endurance - type intervals, which I think are key to going fast in 'cross.

- Getting on my bike! It's obvious that I lose a couple seconds every time I do this.

- Keeping my elbow next to my body when carrying the bike. (This keeps the saddle out of your armpit, so you can lift the bike higher if necessary.)

- More precise lines.

Hmm... that's a big list! I'm also going to make my tire change this week. I stopped by the shop earlier this week, and they're getting some new tires for me. I'm picking them up later this week, but I want to get at least one practice in with them before I race. This is what I'm getting:

Friday, September 21, 2007

Still Hopping

I've been checking out (and agonizing over) the list of registered racers in my class for the races this weekend. It looks like some of the faster guys in my class from last year moved up, and most of the guys who finished around me last year are still in the C's. So, hopefully I can do well against them this year and finish near the front. We'll find out tomorrow!

Training has gone well this week. I did a long road ride on Wednesday night. I felt pretty good (and I didn't flat!). Last night, I did an unexpectedly long cyclocross practice session in my backyard. I had planned to practice for about 30 minutes, then go do a "real" ride, but I ended up practicing for almost an hour and a half.

I think my practicing was time well-spent. I got to where I felt comfortable with the step-through dismount. I set up my practice barrier in a bumpy part of the yard, and I see why you want to move your hand to the top tube. If you leave both hands on the bars, the back of the bike really gets bouncing; putting the hand on the top tube stabilizes the bike a lot. I also got much more consistent about clipping the left foot out (an important step for not crashing into the barriers!). The trick is to unweight the pedal slightly as you twist out; the only time I had issues not clipping out was when I didn't unweight.

I also spent a lot of time working on the remounts. I found that I wasn't breaking down the process correctly. I had been thinking: put right leg on saddle, then jump/kick with left foot. This works at low speeds, but at higher speeds, you can't wait until your leg hits the saddle before jumping off of your left. Thinking about doing a "leprechaun kick" with my left foot does seem to help; I just need to do it earlier.

Landis Decision

The decision on the Floyd Landis case came out yesterday. The panel ruled against his appeal, and he's now been stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title.

The USADA stated, "Today's ruling is a victory for all clean athletes and everyone who values fair and honest competition." Funny, it doesn't feel like it...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tuesday 'cross

Last night was the usual 'cross practice at the track. We went a little shorter than normal, probably because of the UCI race coming up this weekend. It should be an interesting race weekend. I'll be racing both days, which is a first for me. We've also got some big guns coming in for the Elite race, including Jonathon Page (2007 World silver medalist). I'll stick around to watch the Elite race on at least one of the days.

Anyway, back to the practice. We practiced road starts last night for our two mini-races. I really got after it on the first one, and ended up just behind our "fast guys (and girl)" for the first lap. Eventually, "English Mark" came around me, but he didn't build much of a gap and may have been fading a bit by the end. Mark and I finished near each other a lot last year, so he's a good reference point for me.

On the second mini-race, I held back a little on the start and got stuck in the middle of the pack. Since we ride in more-or-less the same places every week, we have a narrow line that's packed down and fast. To pass someone, you have to go off-line, and it's a lot of work. Most of my peers got a faster start, so they stayed ahead of me. I wound up getting stuck behind Jan (I think) for most of the race. I think I was faster, but not enough to pull out and make the pass. Jan beat me pretty consistently last year.

We wrapped up by playing a little follow-the-leader through the course at a slow/moderate pace. It was interesting to see the different lines people took through the corners. I took the opportunity to ride some of these laps with my hands in the drops the whole time. It feels a little strange in some of the slower corners, but otherwise, I really like this position.

So, a few things to think about from last night:
1. Start fast to avoid traffic.
2. When I catch someone, I need to pass them immediately. Even if I have to put in a big effort to do it.
3. Work on mount/dismount technique. The barriers can be a good passing opportunity.
4. Use more rear brake for slow corners, especially if they're off-camber. Otherwise the front tire can slide if you're braking while initiating the turn.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weekend Update

No posting for a while is sometimes a good sign. In this case, it means I've been busy after work, being more-or-less productive on the bike and doing other things.

I went for a pretty easy road ride on Thursday night, and then came home and worked on cyclocross skills in my backyard for a while. I didn't fix my hopping problem.

Friday night, I ended up doing a hard ride on the trainer. I mowed the lawn first, so I didn't have enough daylight left to do the ride outside. I was feeling quite a bit better on Friday, but I still had a little touch of a cold.

I went to the Flying Rhino cyclocross clinic on Saturday. They split it up into two parts, one on cornering and one on mounts/dismounts. The cornering section was interesting, but I was very inconsistent. When I relaxed, leaned the bike, and looked where I wanted to go, I could maintain a pretty good speed through the corners. When I wasn't confident enough to lean the bike, my cornering was much uglier (pretty much the same issue I have on the mountain bike).

The second part was on dismounts and mounts. I think there was a little instructional issue here, since our instructors were telling us something slightly different than they seemed to be actually doing. The dismount instruction went like this:

1. Unclip right foot
2. Swing right leg behind saddle
3. At the same time as (2), bring the right hand to the top tube
4. Step through (or behind) with the right leg)
5. Clip out left foot

My issue was with step 3. If you bring your right hand to the top tube at the same time your right leg is coming around, you've got (in my opinion) too much momentum moving left and it's very difficult to stay balanced. When the instructors actually demonstrated (at full speed; they could do what they described going slowly), they actually reversed steps 3 and 4, which makes much more sense to me. I've checked a few other sources, and this seems to be the more consistent method.

The thing that I did get out of this was that it is important to put your hand on the top tube before dismounting. Not only does this get you ready to carry the bike, but, more importantly, it takes weight off of your left foot, making it easier to clip out.

We also worked on mounting; the instructors verified, that yes, I do hop. Two things I picked up here: the first was to try to lean the bike toward you as you remount. The second was to run with the bike on the ground for a couple steps with your hand on the top tube to help stabilize it.

After the skill parts, we rode a couple laps of the course they set up. I rode my laps fairly hard, but most others didn't. After that, we called it a day. I was glad I went hard for a few laps, but I was also glad it was just a few laps, since I still wasn't feeling 100% after my cold.

For Sunday, I decided that if I was really feeling good in the morning, I'd go ride, otherwise, I'd just relax until hockey. My nose was still running a bit in the morning, so I skipped my ride. Hockey went OK. Even though I scored a couple goals, I felt like I actually played better last week. One odd thing I noticed: going over the boards (going off the ice) has very similar mechanics to jumping on your bike. It's just that the boards are much longer, and don't move... One thing is for sure, I'm much less tired today after only playing hockey yesterday than I was last week when I raced and played hockey.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Not Quite

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

- Vince Lombardi


(For Dad and his Michigan football rant.)


I didn't quite escape last weekend without getting sick. I haven't felt really bad, but bad enough that I didn't train for the past few days. I don't think it was the heavy workload that got me so much, but the lack of sleep on Sunday night. I've been going to bed early most nights this week (I was in bed by 7:45 last night!), but I'm still not quite back to normal.


At least I feel good enough today that I'm going to go ride a little. It's cool enough outside today that I haven't decided if I should ride inside or outside. I'll keep the intensity low and the duration low and see how things go. Maybe I'll work on my 'cross skills in the backyard for a while too. Like I mentioned before, this year I want to "stop the hop" (nip the skip, ditch the hitch, shutter the stutter...).


My copy of the Mountain Biker's Training Bible showed up yesterday. It is in extremely nice condition for a used book; in fact, I really wonder if it was used at all. I've only flipped through it a little, but there seem to be enough differences that I'm happy that I bought it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Being Smart

My throat's been sore all day today. The club is hosting a cyclocross training race tonight, and I was planning on going, but now I'm going to skip it. This is one of those times where you have to do the smart thing, and not what your ego wants you to do. It's the difference between being able to train tomorrow, and being sick for several days.


The Stony XC results are up. As I thought, I finished 7th out of 10 in my class (I left before the results were posted on Sunday to start resting). I spent a little time comparing lap times. I still have to knock of 1-2 minutes per lap (on a ~35 minute lap) to be among the top guys in my class. Significant, but certainly within my abilities; it also goes to prove my impression that I wasn't getting shelled in the singletrack. Also consider that Stony is a trail that I know very well.


I also checked the Expert class times. It was interesting to see that they weren't going that much faster, maybe another minute or so faster per lap than the Sport guys, but they have to do one more lap. So, another 2-3 minutes per lap faster, plus a lap longer, and I'd be hanging around the back of the Expert pack. The extra lap probably wouldn't be an issue, but, of course, doing them all faster is! Still, this also seems like it should be within my ability to do, eventually.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Stony XC

"The real battle for anybody during adversity is to pay attention to the things that you can control, focus on the things you want to do, and to hell with the rest of it."
- Lloyd Carr

The race at Stony yesterday went reasonably well for me. The weather was just about perfect. It stayed in the mid/low 70's and was a little overcast for the whole race, so I stayed nice and cool. The rain the night before also left the trail in good shape, it was just wet enough that the trail was tacky but not muddy.


From a fitness point of view, the race was just OK. I could tell that I hadn't raced for two months. The race went like mine usually do, I got gapped early on, but people started coming back to me late on the second lap.


The surprising thing about yesterday was that I was reasonably quick through the singletrack. Were people still pulling away from me here? Yes, but not like they did in the Marathon race. I'm definitely getting closer to where I need to be. One of the things I've really been working on is to try to stay relaxed, particularly with my upper body, and this really seems to be helping.


Just one race story to share. On the last lap, I caught and passed an RBS guy on the two-track just before the Pines. He really looked done for when I went by. After the last section of singletrack, I looked over my shoulder and saw that he had come back a little. I decided, whether he was in my class or not, that I wasn't going to let him go by me. So I put in a really hard effort for the last ~2 miles to try to drop him. About 40 yards from the finish, you had to take a long left hand turn on a paved road. I made it to the road, figured I'd dropped him, and backed off just a touch (without looking back). That's when I heard the whir of knobbies on pavement just to my right and saw that he was still there and trying to go around me! I punched it and outsprinted him to the finish. I talked to him for minute after the race, and found out that we were, in fact, in the same class.

After the race, the next priorities were sleeping and eating, to recover for the hockey game that night. I felt reasonably good by the time I left for the game, and, in fact, the game went pretty well. I think a big part of it was that most of the other guys were not in such good shape, since this was our first skate of the year, so my fatigue wasn't so obvious.

I'm really dragging today though. Today is an off day. I'm thinking I may go for a short recovery ride tonight, just to get the blood pumping and loosen up a bit, but we'll see how I feel.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Race Morning

My race doesn't start until 1pm today, so I'm having a pretty relaxing morning. It rained a bit last night, but it looks like the rest of today should be clear. The rain might actually do the trail some good, it was a little loose this week, so the rain should help firm it up and make it tacky.

I rode about a lap and a half of the course again yesterday. All was going well until I crashed. It was a relatively easy, but fast, section, and I got a little target fixation on a tree. I didn't actually hit the tree, but I sort of had to lay the bike down to miss it. The results was that I landed pretty hard on my right knee. It was really sore last night, but it seems to be better this morning.

Here are a couple pictures I took with my phone. I think the quality is pretty decent (except for my finger partially covering the lens), especially considering that the first one is through a screen door.