Monday, April 30, 2007

P-Funk Allstar?

After this weekend, I feel like I should be an honorary P-Funk Allstar...

I was in a funk almost all last week and into the weekend. It rained here for most of the week, so I did a couple of hard rides on the trainer. The weekend was nicer, but I was still in a funk both days. I skipped my ride on Saturday, but I got in a 2.5 hour road ride on Sunday; it was nice to get the ride in, but I just wasn't into it. I also decided I need a new saddle for my 'cross bike (which is what I rode), the thing was killing me after an hour or so.

Today is a rest day, and I feel much better. I worked on my mountain bike tonight, trying to prevent the chain drop problem. I tweaked the front derailer just a little and increased the tension from the b-screw adjustment. I'm planning on a fast trail ride tomorrow night, so I'll see if it's improved or not.


I've been experimenting with my pedals for the last few months. I've been using Shimano M520's since I started using clipless pedals (a few years ago). I have two complaints though, one is that I had a few incidents last year where my shoe loaded up with mud or sand and clipping in and out became very difficult. I felt like this cost me real time in a few races. The second is that I frequently unclip accidentally, like when my shoe or pedal hits a rock or even just climbing hard. My second complaint could probably be fixed by adjusting release tension, but not the first. So, off I went in search of a new pedal.

I first tried the classic Eggbeater pedal. Certainly the design looked like it would shed mud well, and they're a cyclocross standard, so I thought they'd be winners. Unfortunately, my practical experience with them was not so good. While I didn't have trouble with mud shedding, I did have trouble consistently clipping in to these pedals. I don't know what the deal was, I think I never got the feel for finding the front of the cleat. I felt like I gave them a pretty fair chance though, I used the Eggbeaters all 'cross season last year and for a lot of my winter riding. The other thing I didn't like was that there was too much free float. It was like my shoes were always sliding around on the pedal; I never got comfortable with that sensation. So, last month, I decided that I was done with the Eggbeaters.

The pedals I'm trying now are the Time ATAC XS pedals, another cyclocross standard. These pedals also have a more open construction that looks good for mud shedding, but there's more of a platform than with the Eggbeaters. So far, I like these pedals. I'm using the middle tension setting, and I haven't accidentally pulled out yet, but I have been able to get my feet out in a few "emergency" situations. Clipping in takes a little more force than I'm used to, but I'm adjusting to it without too much trouble. I haven't used the pedals yet in muddy conditions, so I don't know how they'll really handle it, but so far, so good.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I decided to skip my ride tonight. For me skipping a ride is always a tough decision requiring lots of justification.

Basically, it came down to this: I've been more-or-less tired since the race, I had to work late tonight and I had very low motivation. If it was week 3 of my training block, I'd probably suck it up and ride anyway, but it's only week 2. If I push now, not only do I potentially wreck this week, I most likely wreck next week too. It's not worth it for one ride.

I think what happened here can be traced back to two weeks ago, my last recovery week. I followed my recovery workout plan, but I didn't do a very good job actually recovering. I was just busy around the house and at work. I could actually feel it the beginning of last week too, I wasn't a fresh as I normally am coming off of a rest week.

Well, it is what it is. Tomorrow should be back to normal. Up early for a strength workout and then a mountain bike ride after work.

Also... a shot of a fellow Rhino at Yankee Springs...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Strength Targets

I've been doing a little more work with my Strength Training plan. One of the things I wanted to do from the beginning is to set some targets to work toward. So, here's what I did:

- Hip dominant and quad dominant exercises: I set this target based on my 5s threshold power target of 837W. Assuming no drivetrain losses and a cadence of 60rpm, I calculated that I'd need to apply 176lb on the crankarms. (Interesting note here, I use 170mm cranks rather than a more standard MTB length of 175mm. The conventional wisdom is that the longer crankarms help for mountain biking because they give you more leverage. However, if you run the numbers, I'd have to apply 171lb on 175mm crankarms rather than 176lb on 170mm cranks... pretty small difference.) Then I made some assumptions about how body weight is supported on the bike and during exercises and found that I should work toward using 95lb of external load for 1-legged hip and quad dominant exercises. A cadence of 60rpm for a 5s test means I should target lifting this load at least 5 times per leg. Right now, my 5-rep max is about 62lb (on a 1-leg squat).

- Horizontal pull and push: For lack of a better criteria, I used Friel's targets. 50-80% of my bodyweight for a 1 rep max. That works out to be 68-108lb. Right now my 1RM is around 50lb. (All weights for 1 arm.)

- Vertical pull and push: I used Friel's targets here also. 40-70% of my bodyweight for a 1RM. That's 54-95lb, and my 1RM is about 37lb right now. (All weights for 1 arm.)

So, I still have some work to do to hit these targets, but at least I have targets to hit now. I do think that my increased focus on strength work is paying off though. I'm noticing it this year on steep climbs where I really have to grind it out. There were a few pretty steep hills out at Yankee Springs that I was able to climb, even at the end of the race, where many of my competitors were walking.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Yankee Springs TT

I raced my first race for the year today, the Yankee Springs Time Trial. Things basically went OK this weekend. Since it's still early in the year for me, and since I hadn't ridden this trail before, I decided to just "train through" this race. So, on Saturday I rode two laps of the course, one by myself and one with Greg; it ended up being about two and a half hours of riding. My legs were pretty tired Saturday night, but riding two laps of a new trail helped a lot from the technical point of view.

When I woke up this morning, my legs were still a little dead. I drove up to Yankee Springs and got situated. They got a really good turnout for the race, I couldn't believe how many people showed up. It didn't hurt that the weather was beautiful this weekend. I did a little warm-up, but kept it shorter and easier than usual given the state of my legs. Then I went down to the start.

The race itself went pretty smoothly. I thought I paced myself well at the start. I pretty quickly caught up to the racer in front of me (maybe two spots in front of me), but I wasn't pushing overly hard. I ended up passing a few people, but a few more passed me. What was a little different this year was that most of the guys that caught me sat on my wheel for a long time, it seemed like usually over a mile. If I know someone is behind me in a TT, I always tell them to let me know when they want by, but today, most of the guys sat on for a while.

I had one little mechanical glitch, I dropped my chain on a bumpy downhill, but I don't think it cost me too much time. I will have to see if there's something I can do about that though. What cost me real time was that my legs blew up with about 1.5 miles left to go. I just couldn't get my legs to give any more.

Based on times from last year, I'd hoped to do the race in under an hour, but I ended up with a 1:02. It looked like our times this year were generally slower than last year, maybe conditions last year were a little better? Or maybe the racers that showed up last year were just faster?

Regardless, for an early-season race, I was pretty happy with how things went. My next race is in two weeks, the Fort Custer Stampede. This will be the first time I've gone the extra lap for a Sport race (the other Sport races I've done have been time trials, so we still do just one lap). Should be interesting to see how that goes.

Friday, April 20, 2007

International Ride

I had intended to meet up with another Rhino last night to ride Pontiac Lake. As it turned out he was a no-show. While I was waiting for him, I started talking with another guy who was also waiting for a group. As it turned out, his group left early, without him, so the two of us ended up riding the trail together.

This guy turned out to be a visiting engineer from Germany named Guenther. I work with a lot of Germans, so I'm used to the accent and we didn't have too much trouble communicating (his English was also very good). Even though he said he hadn't ridden in about a year, he was in pretty decent shape, so I didn't have to go oppresively slow.

I was actually really stressed out before the ride, so things ended up working out just about perfectly for me. I got a relatively easy ride in, and I was distracted from other things by making sure I wasn't dropping Guenther and that he was getting through the technical bits in one piece. By the time I was finished, I felt considerably better.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Stony TT Goal Progress

I rode out at Stony Creek again last night. I rode at a "tempo" pace for the first 30 minutes (after I warmed up). I ended up riding virtually all of the singletrack that's in the Stony TT within that time, roughly half of the total course.

So, assuming that my tempo pace is roughly my race pace, which it should be, I rode at a pace that would get me about a 59 minute time trial. That's 5 minutes faster than my time from last year, but still 4 minutes slower than my target for this year. I suppose that means I'm basically on schedule to hit my target time by the end of July.

Most of the gain I've made so far is coming from better technical skill. I can tell that I'm riding much smoother, and therefore faster, on the singletrack.

The part of the TT course that I didn't ride yesterday is mostly more open two-track, and it also has an extended climbing section. So, speed improvements on that part of the course will come from improvements in fitness.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sunday Ride

I ended up not racing at PLRA yesterday. Having only been out on the trail once this year, I just didn't feel comfortable racing out there.

I did go out to Stony in the afternoon though; I rode for an hour and a half. I tried out my Kenda Nevegal DTC tires. They seemed to work pretty well. I felt like climbing traction was better than my Panaracer Fire XC's, as was rolling resistance. I don't think they cornered quite as well, but it wasn't much of a drop-off.

As for the ride itself, I pushed harder than I had intended to on my first lap. I rode pretty well, but I was starting to get tired by the end. I backed off on the second lap and felt much better, and, for the most part, I don't think I went much slower. I carried my momentum better on the second lap and picked better lines, so I still went pretty fast but didn't use nearly as much energy.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Base 2 Test - Ugh

Sorry about not posting more, this week's been busy.

This morning, I did my LT field test for this phase. I had expected to do pretty well; I felt very fit going into the test. Long story short, it didn't go as well as I expected.

With the idea in mind of crushing the test, I went out pretty hard for the first 10 minutes. That would have been fine if I was really fit enough to crush the test. As it turned out, my energy started dropping off after 15 minutes. At that point, my average power had fallen to about where I was last month. I felt like throwing in the towel then, but I didn't. I kept pushing through to the end; I figured, if nothing else, it was good practice for sustaining hard efforts (that, and it's bad to get in the habit of quitting).

I ended up improving my average power by 5 Watts from last month, mostly by pushing hard again over the last minute or two. I suppose an improvement is an improvement, but it wasn't what I expected.

Looking at the numbers afterward, it's clear that I went too hard at the beginning. In fact, my speed over the first 10 minutes was faster than I've ever gone on a LT test. I suppose this just sets me up for a big improvement on the test next month.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Snowed Out

I had planned to do a lot of riding over the weekend, but Mother Nature derailed me. We got about 3-4 inches of snow at my parents' house this weekend. Crazy...

We're supposed to keep getting rain and snow this week, which probably means I won't race at Pontiac Lake this weekend. It will most likely be a mudpit and I've only been on the trail once this year.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Where Did Spring Go?

It's cold and snowy here tonight.

OK, just a little snow...


I've been doing Tempo rides on Tuesday nights for this training block. Last night was also the first Rhino track night. I had considered going, but they were predicting bad thunderstorms so I decided to stay home and do my Tempo ride as-planned on the trainer. It turns out that I could have gone to the track, it still hadn't rained by the time I went to bed!

Anyway, I had a great ride last night. I did a short warmup, then 40 minutes at tempo, then a short cooldown. My legs felt great for all but the last 5 minutes of the tempo riding. For the past two weeks, I felt like I struggled to keep my power numbers even at the lower limit of Zone 3, but last night, I was able to stay at the upper end with reasonable comfort. It's workouts like that that give me confidence in my training plan.

Unfortunately, the weather is supposed to get pretty bad around here this week. Lots of cold days and rain (and maybe snow!). Sarah and I are heading over to Mattawan for the weekend. I'm hoping I can get some rides in anyway, but we'll see. I'll just have to break out my cold weather riding gear again.

The first mountain bike races of the year are coming up in the next few weeks. The first two are time trials, one at Pontiac Lake and the other at Yankee Springs. I was originally thinking I wouldn't do the Pontiac Lake race, it's on the last day of my Base 2 phase, but I'm starting to get anxious to race. I may treat it as a "fair weather" race: if the weather is nice and I feel good, I'll do it, if not, I won't. I'm already signed up for Yankee Springs.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Well, Dad and I wrapped up our POTATOEE challenge last weekend. We ended up doing our last ride together, and both of us made it to Cockeysville.

Dad got there faster than me. He ended up with 657 miles, I had 639 miles.

I think that all of the riding has been good for him. He's definitely faster than he was last year.