Friday, August 31, 2007

Night on Bald Mountain

“Nothing is work unless you'd rather be doing something else.”

- George Halas

I had a really bad day at work yesterday; I may get frustrated frequently, but it usually passes pretty quickly and isn't a big deal. Yesterday I was just really angry. I had planned to go ride at Stony after work, since I'm racing there next weekend, but I wasn't very excited about it, which didn't help my mood.

As the day was winding down, I decided to ride at Bald Mountain instead. I rode Bald Mountain a bunch last year, but I hadn't been there at all this year. The trail is much less technical than Stony, but, if you ride hard, you can definitely still get a good workout there.

It turned out that the trails at Bald Mountain were in great shape; sometimes they take a while to dry out after the rain. I didn't see anyone else there on a bike, and just two small groups of hikers. After about 15 minutes of riding, my work stress was basically gone. (This is, incidently, a big advantage of mountain biking over road biking. I can ride on the road for hours and still be thinking about work, but when I ride the mountain bike, I have to focus on the trail, so everything else gets pushed aside.) I felt really good both from a fitness standpoint and a technical standpoint.

I think I'm getting more comfortable letting the tires slide a little, which I think is a key for me to go faster. I'm not talking about big, trail-ripping sliding here, just the little drift that happens when you're near the limit. Someone watching from the side probably wouldn't even see it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cross Practice

“Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp, or are you going to be strong today?’”

- Peter Maher

Last night I went to my first Rhino cyclocross practice of the year. The club has been doing 'cross practices since the beginning of August, but this is the first one I've been able to go to. It was a tough ride (it was very hot when we started), but I rode a little better than I expected.

A few things I noticed:

- I had trouble going over the low-speed barriers, I was dropping my bike down too soon (on top of the barrier). The faster barriers were OK.

- This year is the year to get rid of the stutter step on the remount!

- I need to work on riding in the drops more. Braking is noticeably better in this position. My hands would appreciate the variety in position.

- I felt pretty good on the technical parts of the course; I thought I was noticeably faster than most of the guys (and girls) riding around me in the techy stuff. I think the backyard MTB stuff helps with 'cross even more than it helps with mountain biking!

- My tires are way overbuilt in comparison to what most people are running.

This is what I've got on the bike right now.

I'm considering switching to something more like this.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Training Week

“Don't do anything in practice that you wouldn't do in the game.”

- George Halas

Last week ended up being a pretty good training week, despite the bad weather. I got in all of my scheduled rides and workouts, and by the end of the week, I felt pretty good on the bike.

This week, I'm going to the Rhino's Tuesday night cyclocross workout, so that will be a pretty good test to see where I stand. My guess is that it won't go so well, but my first cross race is still 4 weeks off, so that's OK.

At the 'cross workout, we usually do several short "races", each is maybe 6 laps of a fairly short course. I figure that two laps on our training courses equals one lap on a real 'cross course. Most people, myself included, don't really treat these workouts like real races though.

I think these workouts are very effective, but I also think I can get more out of them. My plan for this year is to treat these like real races. So, what's critical in a 'cross race? The first thing is the start. Since the race is so short, it's important to get up front early and push hard; coming from behind just doesn't seem to work that well. To that end, I want to start each training race like I would a real race... really drop the hammer at the beginning. I'll try to hold that high pace for the first lap; maybe try to build up to two laps by the end of the year. The second thing I want to work on is to quickly get back up to my cruising speed after I have to slow down to clear barriers, for a corner, etc. It's going to mean that these training races hurt more, but it should also make them more effective.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hot Hot Hot!

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

- Vince Lombardi

I had a tough ride last night. It was about 90F, humid, and I'm still not in good mountain biking shape (my co-workers laugh when I tell them I'm out of shape, but I guess it's all relative). I went over to Stony after work to ride the trails; I realized that this was my first trail ride since the Stony Marathon race in July! As I expected, I wasn't too sharp and was a little more gassed in some sections than normal. While I was generally rusty, my bike handling felt really good in a few spots; I think this was where some of my backyard drills made an impact. I definitely need to keep that up.

So, I only rode for about an hour on the trails, and I was really starting to get tired. I decided that I should probably get off the trails before I crashed into something, but I also decided that I needed to ride for the 1.5 hours I had planned. So, I sucked it up and got out on the road surrounding the lake. I thought about turning around or cutting out the nature trail spur about half a dozen times, but I did the whole thing. I had also forgotten about how slow a mountain bike feels on the road... lots of rolling resistance, bad aerodynamics, the gearing isn't right, you name it!

Anyway, my total ride time was 1:31. It felt like a pretty big accomplishment, even though this is a standard (or even short) ride length for me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Real World

“It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe.”
- Muhammad Ali

Yesterday was mainly sucked away by my responsibilities to the real world. I needed to get new tires for my car (I probably should have done it months ago), so I stopped at the shop on the way home from work. Typically, since I go for higher performance tires, the tire shop needs to order what I want; so I expected to skate in and out in just a few minutes. It turned out that they did have some suitable tires for me in stock, so I waited around while they put them on. Since last night also looked to be the only non-rainy night we might have for a while, I also mowed the lawn (as did almost all of my neighbors). It took quite a bit longer than usual since the grass was so long.

By the time I finished all that, it was about 8:30pm and starting to get dark. So I put on my running shoes and went for a quick jog. It went OK, but I was a bit tired to start with and the right IT band flared up a little near the end. I want to do a few more short, easy runs over the next couple weeks before I transition to hill sprint work for cyclocross.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Rainy Season

It's apparently the rainy season in Michigan right now. It rained almost the entire day today and yesterday. My grass needed it, but since it was last mowed before I left for Germany, now it's long enough that Suzie is getting lost out there!

I had a cycling first for me tonight on the trainer. I was getting near the end of the No Slackers Spinervals DVD, and I threw up a little. I told Sarah after the ride; for some reason, she thought it was gross... whatever. I'm pretty pleased with myself though. I suppose, in reality, it had more to do with me being a bit out-of-shape rather than going super hard.

I was looking at my race schedule a bit tonight; I'm looking forward to being able to focus on riding a little more than I've been able to for the past month. It looks like I've only got one mountain bike race left for the season (!) unless I feel really good this week and decide to race on Saturday; we'll see how this week goes. After that, I start the cyclocross season. The Rhinos started 'cross practice two weeks ago. I'm not planning to go tomorrow night (if it's a dry night, the lawn will be calling), but I'll start going next week.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Home Again

I got back from Germany yesterday; it was a pretty tiring trip and I'm glad to be back home. I got a little running in one morning and did some strength work another day, but it was generally an inactive trip. We just started work too early and finished too late most days for me to want to do too much.

Anyway, as promised, here are some pictures from the Alaska trip.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Home, For Now

I'm back home from Alaska now. Sorry that the blogging took a nosedive before I left (and since I've been back). I had some very busy days right before the trip, lots of work and a little birthday celebration.

I'll make a separate post about it, but the trip to Alaska was great. Here's a teaser...

I stayed reasonably active on the trip, but I still feel slow and out of shape now. I got home very early Saturday morning. I didn't ride Saturday; I took care of some housework instead. I put in about 1:45 on the bike Sunday; it felt OK, but not great. No riding last night either, but I should be able to get a good ride in tonight.

At the end of this week, I'm heading to West Virginia. I'm tempted to bring a bike, but I don't know if I'll really have much opportunity to ride. I should probably do it... Next Monday I'm heading off to Germany for the week (hopefully it's only one week), and I'm expecting that it will be an unpleasant trip.

I was planning to race again on the 25th, but, with all my traveling, I won't have much solid riding in between now and then. I'll make a decision about it at the end of this week once I see how it goes.