Thursday, January 31, 2008

Big Chill

It's been bitter cold the past couple days, which has been a bit of a shock compared to the relatively mild weather we've been having. It's supposed to be a bit warmer tomorrow and into the weekend, but we're also supposed to get dumped on tomorrow, so I'm not expecting to ride outside for a while still.

I've had a pretty good week so far in terms of training. Monday was a speed skill ride and yesterday I did some "garage skills" and an off-the-bike strength and conditioning workout. I tried some of my usual garage drills with my "weak" foot forward. It was quite a bit tougher, especially the first few times.

I'm feeling a little run down today; mostly from not enough sleep this week I think. I'm going to take it easy tonight and hopefully get re-energized for a good weekend.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Running, etc

Here's the GPS data from my run this week.

I ended up riding on the trainer last night. Not my first choice, but I need to get used to pedaling the bike for a while again. Hopefully the weather warms up just a bit (at least, for the weekends), so I can ride outside.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Quick Week

It's been a very busy week, so I haven't had much time for blogging. It seems like all I do is eat, work, eat, train, eat, sleep... repeat. The big changes this week have been increasing back to a more "normal" training volume, cleaning up my diet and being more concious about getting to sleep on time (or early!). Some days, it doesn't leave a lot of time for other things, but those are the sacrifices I choose to make.

From a training point-of-view, it's been a good week. I've put in a decent amount of time in the garage working on very low speed balance and bike-handling stuff. So far, my favorite drill has been riding through a 4-cone slalom. I space the cones out at about wheelbase-length, then try to get through without letting either tire hit a cone. The tricky part is not letting your back tire hit the middle couple cones; your balance has to be good to go slow enough to do this. I think to go tighter than wheelbase-length, you may need to stop and hop a wheel to the side...

I got a nice run in on Wednesday night. It was dark, snow was falling, and the streets were basically empty. I took a picture with my phone, it probably didn't turn out well, and took my GPS. I'll try to post that stuff later.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do for tomorrow. I'm supposed to do a 2hr ride, but it's going to still be cold in the morning. I'm supposed to go to a diaper class with Sarah in the afternoon. (Who knew there was such a thing as diaper class?) I just hate to do long rides on the trainer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Training Begins

"Success each day should be judged by the seeds sown, not the harvest reaped."

- Unknown (to me, anyway)

So, training begins in earnest for me today as I start my Base 1 phase. The focus is on developing skills (bike handling and pedaling) and trying to get a long ride in over the weekend. I'll ride if the weather is OK, but otherwise do cross-training. I try to limit my time on the trainer for Base 1.

I basically got over my cold late last week; hopefully being out late at hockey last night doesn't cause me any trouble.

Hockey was decent last night. I played OK, but I didn't feel particularly fit... not a big surprise I guess given that I didn't do much for the past few weeks.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Training Guidelines

"Skills pay the bills."

As I was madly planning my strength program last week, I got to thinking that, for most races anyway, my strength probably is not going to have the biggest impact on my results. (Certainly, strength work is important, but maybe not so important that it needs to be planned to the nth degree.) What was obvious to me last year was that what separates me from the top Sport racers is bike handling skills.

I've written numerous times before about how I need to improve my skills, but I've generally not gone after improving them the way I've gone after other aspects of my riding. In hindsight, I think this was a mistake.

Joe Friel wrote a couple "training guidelines" for novice mountain bike racers that I think maybe should still apply to me:

The first is "skills before fitness". I think he intended this to mean that you need to develop skills to the point where you don't crash before you worry about fitness. I'm obviously (mostly) past this point, but I think this is still a helpful guideline in terms of setting priorities. Taking the guideline literally, it means I need to do the important stuff first. So, work on skills before I go on my ride instead of after (when I might decide to skip it, or forget about it, or whatever).

The second is "speed before endurance". So, work on riding sections fast before you worry about riding the whole trail. In fact, this is basically how my very first mountain bike rides went. You ride a section, then stop (to catch your breath), then ride the next section. I've sort of dismissed this type of riding as "for beginners", but maybe it has more merit than I thought? The point for me here is work on riding technical sections at (or, ideally, above) race pace. My instinct for self-preservation is strong enough that I'm not going to ride a section significantly faster in a race than I've ridden it, or something similar, in training.

I think that following the "speed for endurance" model is also part of how I improved this year in 'cross. At our Tuesday night practices, I decided I would go as hard as I could for as long as I could. This got me used to riding sections at speeds higher than my race pace. I definitely benefited from this in the long run.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Down and Out in Boston

I made a quick trip to Boston over the weekend. I never quite got feeling good last week, and it finally caught up to me Friday night. Sarah and I were in Boston for her brother's wedding. We woke up early on Friday to catch a 6:30am flight out of Flint. I actually felt decent during the day on Friday, but as I was going to bed (relatively late) Friday night, I started to feel my nose filling up.

Saturday morning when I woke up, I had a full blown cold. I was pretty miserable all day Saturday (including for the wedding, yay!). I slept for a good chunk of Saturday afternoon; it helped a little, but not enough. I felt a little better yesterday, but still not too good. I got to bed early last night, which helped convince me to go to work this morning.

I was a little torn this morning. The bike racer in me wanted to stay home and go back to bed, but the guy with the day job in me decided it would be better to go to work. I was OK for a while, but at some point I decided to just finish what I had to finish today and then go home. Still, I didn't end up leaving until around 1pm.

I've just been lounging around since I got home. I watched Off Road to Athens for the first time. I thought it was great! Definitely a must-watch for any mountain bike racer. I don't know if it's because I was sick or what, but it got me teared up a couple times.

Anyway, I'm off to bed once I finish typing this. At a minimum, I need to get feeling better by next week, when I start my Base phase for 2008. Ideally, I'd like to get feeling better sooner and get some quality days in this week. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Strength Benchmarks

Last night I set my pre-season strength benchmarks. I made a little chart showing where I am, where I'd like to get by the end of the base phase, and roughly where Friel says I should be. On the Friel numbers, I'm making the assumption here that target load is cut in half for the 1-leg variations, which makes sense I think.

So, my goals are to improve my lower body numbers to 120lb (I talked about this calculation last year). This works out to be about 20%. I think this is definitely doable over 3 months. For the upper body, I'd like to achieve a strength balance around my shoulder joint (note that the exercises break down to horizontal/vertical push/pull). There are some bigger percentages to go after here, so I don't know how feasible this is. I also want to be careful with the overhead pressing.

The other interesting part is that my benchmark numbers are already in the ranges that Friel recommends. So, I guess I'm thinking that the Friel numbers are too low, at least for the lower body. I think that building more strength in my lower body would help me go faster, even if it means adding a little weight. As for the upper body, my strength probably is good enough for racing. It's been a long time since my upper body has gotten fatigued during a race.

My throat has been pretty sore this morning. I haven't decided if/how I'll let this affect my workout plans for tonight.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

2007 Hours

I finally got around to tallying up my training hours for 2007. The total damage was:

  • Bike: 221.5 hrs

  • Strength: 47.5 hrs

  • Cross-training: 58 hrs

  • Total: 327 hrs

It's interesting to compare this to 2006. I had a few more hours overall in 2007, but the mix is very different. I spent much more time on the bike, much more time cross-training, and much less time doing pure strength work. Looking at the 2006 chart though, you can see that my consistency was better. Especially early in the year, the undulating loading and unloading pattern is pretty obvious.

Monday, January 07, 2008

All Out

I played hockey again last night. It was the first time the group has played for a couple weeks. The attendance was pretty good, we had 6 guys on each bench. So, I figured I might as well go all out an every shift and keep my shifts short. The teams ended up being pretty evenly matched and the pace stayed pretty high for almost the whole game. Each team had 2-3 guys (myself included) that were really working hard.

Anyway, I had a good time, but I didn't get any production out of my work. The goalie I was going against was pretty hot, and he robbed me on a few good chances (and I screwed up a few other ones without his help!). Still, I felt like I helped by keeping things moving and being disruptive.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Not Quite Right

This week sort of ended up being a bust for my training. I just wasn't feeling quite right for most of the week. I never actually got sick, but I didn't really feel healthy either. I had a sore throat off and on, and sometimes a cough (felt like it was coming from the upper part of my lungs). Sarah was sick for most of the week too. So, I decided to play it safe and not do too much.

I finally got feeling a bit better yesterday, so I did a pedaling technique workout on the trainer. It also put me on the board for our 2008 POTATOES challenge (it's like the 2007 edition, but we're "riding" from Pentwater, MI to Murfreesboro, TN). This morning, I did Ross's "Magic 50" workout; hockey starts up again tonight also.

I'm getting ready to start my winter bike overhauls. It's a good time of year to really get everything clean, replace worn out components, etc. I was thinking about rebuilding my suspension fork myself, but I was having trouble finding all of the right rebuild parts. Just by chance, I checked Push Industries' website and found that they now rebuild RockShox Reba forks (I think that they used to only work on Fox forks). Their rebuild price is pretty reasonable, close to what I would have paid for the components, oil, etc. So, I'll probably have them go ahead and have them do it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


We got dumped on last night, maybe 12-14 inches of snow. So, this morning, I did my "shoveling workout". It took me about an hour and 15 minutes, including the sidewalks and a bit of the street (so we didn't immediately get stuck upon leaving the driveway).

It was kind of fun, I felt pretty energetic the whole time. I could do without my neighbors and their snowblowers though... they're loud and smell bad (the snowblowers, that is). Kind of ruins an otherwise good outdoor experience. Both guys that were running their snowblowers this morning are definitely young enough and healthy enough that they could be shoveling.