Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bloomer XC - 2008

I got my first race of the season out of the way on Sunday, the Bloomer Park Cross Country race. I had a bad feeling going into it, basically because I knew it was going to hurt. My strategy for this race was to bury it at the start and ride with the leaders until I couldn't anymore. It's a hard way to go, but I usually get better results with this method.

I lined up in the second row, behind some Sport 19-29 guys. At the whistle, the two guys in front of me went out really fast, and I went right with them. The course starts out through some fields and wide open trail before it goes to singletrack. This year, the sledding hill was not part of the course, so there weren't any trail features to string the pack out before we hit the singletrack. I found out later that somebody locked up his brakes in the field section (!?!?) and that did spread the group out a little as people were trying to avoid him. I did wonder at the time why no one was coming around me; I'm not usually that fast at the start.

Anyway, it didn't take me too long before I realized that I'd probably gone out too hard. It was pretty clear that I wasn't going to be able to keep up with the first two 20 year-olds. I kept my position through the first section of singletrack, which had a decent little climb, but I started dropping back after that.

From then on, I just kept plugging away (and hoping for a mechanical to put me out of my misery). I felt pretty bad for most of the race, but I rode OK. My technical skills have definitely improved. Last year, there were some sections of this trail that tripped me up, but I didn't have any real problems this year. I did crash once on my last lap. My front tire just washed out in a sandy corner and down I went.

From about the halfway point until the end, I was basically riding with just one other guy. I wasn't sure if he was in my age group or not, but I decided to assume that he was to make sure I kept going hard enough. He was a little quicker on the tight singletrack, but I was faster on the climbs and open sections, so we kept switching positions. As we were heading back to the cricket field for the finish, I put in a last gasp effort and dropped him. (I talked to him after the race, and, no, he wasn't in my age group.)

I ended up finishing 4th out of 11. I was really shocked by the result. For as bad as I felt during the race, I expected my result to be a lot worse. That being said, I wasn't very close to the 3rd place rider; I was almost 6 minutes back! There was a decent gap behind me, another 3 minutes or so to the 5th place guy. I suppose it was a good race, given my current fitness and that it was only my 4th time out on a trail this year.

(Photo from John O's blog.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Training Post-Baby

This week is a rest week for me. Usually, by Thursday, I'm feeling pretty rested, but it's not the case this week. I really thought I'd be able to sleep a little more than I have. The baby, of course, is part of the reason I'm not sleeping, but Sarah takes care of so much of the night duty during the week, I can't say that that's really the reason.

I've generally been able to make time to ride or do some other exercise at night and on the weekends. It's meant a few later nights than I'd like, but I've been able to do it. What's been getting at me lately is also practicing my trumpet. A friend of mine at work set up a gig and assumed that I would be able to play. He's really counting on me to show up (and play halfway decently), so I feel like I can't let him down. So, I've got to keep practicing for another week and a half. Once that's over, things should get a little easier.

I've done just a little riding so far this week. I went out for about an hour last night on my 'cross bike to Waterford Oaks and rode on some of the trails. They're not too technical, but, on a 'cross bike, they're pretty fun. It would be a good place for a 'cross specific workout once Fall rolls around.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Up A Notch

I wound up kicking things up a notch in my training this weekend. Friday night, I went on a ~3 hour mountain bike ride with Brad. We didn't push too hard, but my legs were dead by the end. He lives at the top of a long steep hill, which would be bad enough, but the dirt road was badly washboarded, so you couldn't keep any momentum. It ended up being a brutal way to end the ride. It's good for me to follow Brad around on the trails too. He's much smoother on the singletrack than I am.

I just did a pretty easy ~1 hour ride on Saturday to keep the legs loose.

Sunday night I started hockey with the new group. These guys were definitely a notch (or two) better than my Winter group. Basically, the group consisted of the better players from my Winter group, plus a bunch more that were as good or better. We had 4 guys on the bench, and we went hard the whole time. It will definitely be a good group for me to skate with.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Maiden Voyage

Yesterday I took my new (tubeless) wheels out for their maiden voyage on the trails. I guess I was sort of expecting to feel a huge difference from the tubed setup, but I didn't really. Maybe I would have noticed it if I'd already been riding the trails a lot and then switched, as it was, this was also my first trail ride of the year. Everything went off smoothly though, I ran the tires at 25 psi, and I hadn't lost any pressure by the end of the ride. Grip was probably better than with the tubed setup (where I ran higher pressures). I didn't notice rolling resistance being especially low, but I might have if I could have made a better back-to-back comparison.

Anyway, for a first ride on the trail, I actually felt really good. The first few minutes weren't great, but I got comfortable pretty fast. I think working on all of the balance stuff over the Winter really helped. I rode all of PLRA without having to dab, which I think is pretty good for a first ride.

By the end of the ride, I did feel like the rear tire was a little squirmy. I think I will try bumping up the rear tire pressure just a few psi and see if that takes care of the problem.

It looks like I'll be playing hockey a little more this Spring. The group I played with this Winter had our last skate on Sunday night. On Tuesday, a guy from the group emailed me to see if I wanted to play with a group this Spring. Since my racing schedule is pretty light this Spring, I decided to go ahead and do it. So, hockey resumes for me this Sunday night again.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Rhino Pacing

I ended up going out to the track last night for the club road workout. I hadn't originally planned to do it; they were predicting heavy rain earlier in the day. It turned out that the storm blew North of us, and since I'll be watching the baby tonight and tomorrow night, I figured that this was my chance to get out and ride.

We had a big turnout, maybe 30 people or so. This was the second week at the track, but the weather was miserable last week so only a handful of people showed up. Lots of new faces too.

We spent the first part of the night just working on getting comfortable riding in the group. My group riding skills could still use some work, but I'm definitely getting better at this. Then we spent the last hour basically riding tempo around the track. A few of the stronger riders (or those who thought they were strong) rotated up front and the rest of us just sat in behind them (thus, "Rhino pacing"). I felt pretty good doing this until the last 10 minutes or so. Not too bad considering how long I'd been sick.

While riding in line, I had the thought that this kind of riding is probably why the better 'cross racers usually come from the road side rather than the mountain side (Simon Burney makes this statement, but doesn't explain it, in his book, Cyclocross). Even though you definitely have some hard bursts in a 'cross race, the effort is generally fairly steady. So, it's more similar to the road rather than the trail. Maybe this is something I need to think about in terms of training as 'cross season gets closer?

I'm not sure how the rest of the week will go for me. Sarah is going to go to the rink for a while tonight and tomorrow night, so I'll be watching the baby (so, no riding outside). Friday is open, but the weather forecast doesn't look good for Friday (or the rest of the weekend). The last race of the Rhino Spring Training series is Saturday, I'd like to do the B race, but Sarah is supposed to be at the rink at the same time; I could do the C race, but I don't know if it's worth it. Sunday is the first mountain bike race of the year; I'd like to do this also, but I still haven't ridden on the trail yet this year, so maybe it's not such a hot idea.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Riding Again

I'm 95% over my cold now, and I actually started riding again on Friday. The weather was pretty crummy on Friday, so I rode the trainer. I mainly worked on pedaling technique drills. The first few minutes were a big shock to the system, but I felt OK by the end.

Saturday morning, I went over to the track to watch some of the spring training races my club puts on. It was nice to see some of the guys, and the "B" race in particular was pretty entertaining to watch. We had 3 Rhinos in a 5-man break, and somehow managed to finish 3,4, and 5. That's how it goes I guess. Saturday was really nice in terms of weather, but it was almost dark by the time I was ready to ride, so it was back on the trainer again.

Yesterday, I rode outside around noon. I did the route from my house through Pontiac Lake State Park to Indian Springs and back. I ran into a couple guys from the mountain bike team at PLRA, so I stopped and talked for a few minutes. They said that the trail was muddy, but not too bad. If we get decent weather this week, it should be OK for the race next weekend. (I'm going back and forth about doing that race, it will really depend on how this week goes.) I ran into some more guys from the club at Indian Springs, but they were on the bike path and I was on the road going the other way, so we didn't talk. Anyway, it was a good ride.

I played hockey again last night, next week is our last skate. Since I hadn't played in 2 weeks, it took me a while to get going, but I felt like I played OK. I was on the same team with the best player in our group. After watching him a bit, I realized that the main difference between him and the rest of us is that all of his fundamentals are better. He's a better skater, stickhandler, passer, shooter, etc. than the rest of us, and when you put that all together, he's a much better player than the rest of us.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Training Reset

I went back to work yesterday. It was definitely a shock to the system; I was pretty wiped out by the end of the day. I'm feeling much better now, but I'm still a little sick. I took a nap for about an hour when I got home, and I got to bed at a pretty decent time last night. I feel like I'm really close to getting rid of this cold now.

I'm going to have to figure out what to do with my training; I've missed about 2 weeks with this cold and the baby. My original plan called for a rest week next week and then moving on to the Build phase. I'm definitely not ready for that right now, so I'll probably start over at Base 3 and see how that ripples down to my races.