Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I hadn't really planned to go skiing this morning, but, if you want to ski around here, you've got to go when you get the chance. It snowed most of yesterday and a little more overnight, so I got out first thing this morning.

I skied over at the nature center in my neighborhood. The trails aren't great, but it was fun to get out. It turned out that there was just barely enough snow to ski on.

A few random pictures from my phone...

Bike-shaped bike racks outside a restaurant in Baltimore.

Cora and Sarah watching some ducks.

Seoul, Korea.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Log Hopping

It's been a while since I've posted; I've been busy doing family Christmas stuff. Our last guests left this morning, so things should be getting back to normal.

I did manage to ride my bike a little yesterday. I rode on the trainer for about 45 minutes, mostly just easy spinning and working on pedaling technique. I also pulled my mountain bike out and practiced some stuff in the backyard, since our snow has melted.

I spent some time practicing the log-hopping technique that Gene taught us with a 4x4. This is sort of a low/medium speed technique where you set the front wheel on the obstacle and then lift the rear to land on or clear the obstacle. Setting the front wheel on the obstacle is important for progressing to bigger logs. Anyway, placing the front wheel properly usually isn't a big deal for me, so I was mostly thinking about lifting the rear.

Then, on one pass, I messed it up... I set the front wheel down in front of the 4x4, and then, because I was already into my "sequence", I lifted the rear anyway. Well, with all my weight on the front wheel in front of the 4x4, and the back of my bike already coming up, I did a beautiful low-speed endo over the 4x4! My bike landed right on top of me... nice. I was fine, but I'm a little sore today. I always wonder if the neighbors see me doing stuff like that... they probably already think I'm crazy.

Monday, December 14, 2009


So far, I've been enjoying my off-season. I hadn't realized how much pressure I was putting myself under near the end of the season; that probably also contributed to my results. In general, I'm a little surprised at how I feel so far. Physically, I definitely needed a break, so that's been good. Based on my comment above, I suppose I needed a mental break too, but I'm still really fired up about racing and training. I feel like I could start tomorrow again if I had to. Kind of strange, usually, I don't want to have anything to do with the bike for a few weeks after the season's over.

Anyway, I spent most of my evenings last week doing battle with the cars in a cold garage. I put the snow tires on the cars and I had some stubborn lug nuts and flat tires to deal with. It took quite a bit longer than I would have liked.

Friday afternoon, I came down with a cold, probably thanks to my nights in the garage. I haven't really felt too bad, but my throat has been sore and my nose has been running like crazy. I felt good enough that I went on Saturday night and rode my bike with some other Rhinos in the Clarkston Christmas Parade. It was pretty fun, and not too cold...

The mountain bike racing schedule for next year is out. I'm not really thrilled with how the first half of the season lines up with my tentative training plan. All the races in June would require some travel, and I'm not sure that I see that happening. I'm also going to be out of town for the Pontiac Lake XC race, which is kind of a bummer.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2009 Season Review

Now that the season's over, it's a good time to think about how the year went. I'll start forgetting stuff soon as I transition back to being a "normal" person for a while.

The mountain bike season got off to an unspectacular start. I managed to hurt my knee early this Spring, due to a position issue and probably doing too much too soon. That definitely set me back from a fitness perspective, but it did open the door for me to work on some riding skills.

My first couple of mountain bike races weren't so hot. It's hard to compete with the guys who have been training and doing the early season races when you effectively started training in May. As my fitness built up and my confidence in my skills improved, I started getting faster. By the end of the season, I had a nice 3rd place finish at the Pontiac Lake XC race and a 4th at Addison Oaks. I felt like I ended the mountain bike season in the best shape I've ever been in for mountain bike racing.

One of my goals for the year was to get good enough results and lap times to feel confident about moving up to Expert next year. With the exception of a couple early races this year, I feel like I accomplished that, so I'll be moving up for next year.

It was kind of an interesting year in terms of training. I rode less than I have in years past. The result was improved training consistency and better "balance" with the other things in my life. The balance thing is key, it's no good being out on a training ride feeling guilty because you're not spending enough time with your family. I also spent a lot more time working on my bike handling.

The cyclocross season seemed to be sort of the opposite of the mountain bike season. I got off to a fast start with top 10 finishes in each of my first 5 races. Then I got sick for a couple weeks in October and I never seemed to get back to the same level after that. The other interesting thing about this year's cyclocross season was that, even though I raced more than I have before (11 races), my motivation stayed pretty high the whole season. In past years, I've usually felt a bit burned out at some point. Maybe that's also attributable to training a bit less?

I had hoped to perform well enough at the 'cross races to also consider moving up for next year (admittedly, I hadn't looked at lap times before I had this idea), but I'm not really close right now. Even at the beginning of the season, I wasn't close. I would have had to improve from where I started (which I've done every year except this one!). So, it looks like another year of the B's for me.

So, there are a few key things that I learned this year that I'm going to try to carry over.

1. Even though I didn't like the cause, I sort of liked starting the season a little late. I think I'm going to start later next year too, maybe not worry too much about getting on the bike until the end of March / early April. It means that I have no chance to get ready for the early mountain bike races, but I'm OK with that. I figure that maybe I'll start racing in June again. It also sets me up nicely for cyclocross...

2. I really need to listen to myself! On the infamous ride where I got hurt this Spring, I knew that I should stop and go home, but I didn't. Before I got sick in October, I knew that I was pushing my limits in terms of training and sleep, but I just kept going. Training consistency is so much more important than trying to squeeze in that little bit extra.

3. I kind of hinted at it, but didn't come out and say it above. Especially during the mountain bike season, I think I was faster than in past years simply because I could handle my bike better. It's been a gradual process, but I think that, especially with what I learned at Gene's camp, I should continue to get better... and I still have a lot of room for improvement.

Cross Fall-off

So, in every year I've raced 'cross, up until this one, I've gotten faster as the season went on. This year, I started pretty fast, and then got slower. I can say that, for sure, it is more fun to get faster...

I've spent some time thinking about what happened, mostly so I can avoid doing the same thing next year. The key event was that I got sick just after I came back from Virginia and it took me a while to recover. I was sick from Oct 12 - 28. I definitely extended my illness by trying to resume training too quickly.

From October 28 until the end of the season was only about 5.5 weeks. Not much time to rebuild after being mostly down for over two weeks.

My illness was predictable though, and I could have taken some steps to prevent it. I think that a major contributor had to do with the way I structured my year. Due to my early-season knee problem, I sort of got off to a late start. But once I got going, I didn't stop. I trained with no significant break (Transition-type phase) from early May until October! About 22 weeks! I think I would have been better off taking a break at some point and re-loading a bit. I guess I was thinking I didn't need to since I started late. I also was treating my trip to Yosemite as a break, but, given all the hiking we did, it really wasn't. From May 11 until the end of cyclocross season would have been about 30 weeks... so, I think my illness was just a matter of time. Even if I hadn't gotten sick, it seems like I probably couldn't have held my fitness through the whole 'cross season.

I'll be keeping this in mind as I start to plan out my schedule for next year. For now though, I'll be taking a much-needed break!

Cora went to the race on Sunday with my parents. One of her new favorite phrases is, "Dad fall down in the mud." She seemed to think that was pretty funny...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Springfield Oaks CX - 2009

My last race of 2009 is now in the books. It was a tough day. The weather was pretty cold, around 30F, and there was a little wind. The course was fun, but the conditions changed quite a bit throughout the day. During my test laps before the C race, a lot of the course was frozen and there wasn't too much mud. I was able to ride everything without too much trouble. I went back out after the C race to see how things had changed. The little sidehill ride had gotten pretty chewed up and was now difficult to ride. I also fell hard on a downhill left-hander that had given me no trouble earlier. I had to twist one shifter back into position and tweak my derailleur hanger a bit after that crash. So, I started the race with my left side already covered in mud.

The race sort of went like Bloomer did, I just felt like I wasn't able to generate any power. I had recognized that this was a possibility beforehand, so I kept a better attitude about it this time and just kept riding. The other difference was that I crashed four or five times.

The course conditions continued to change during the race. It turned out that even running the sidehill section was tricky, I slipped and fell a couple times. That downhill left-hander also got muddier and continued to give me problems. I eventually just decided to take it with my inside foot unclipped every lap. That actually resulted in my most painful crash. On one lap, my bike started to slide, so I put my foot down, but the bike kept sliding, so I ended up kind of doing the splits and landing on my butt. I'm still feeling that one today!

I rode near fellow Rhinos Richard and Chris for the middle part of the race. I really thought I'd be able to hang on to them, but I just couldn't quite do it. (I also noticed that I didn't seem to have the motivation to suffer like I needed to for this race.)

I ended up riding the last couple laps with a guy from the Racing Greyhounds. I was just ahead of him going into the last stretch of grass. I took the corner entering the grass too hot and slid out; since he was right behind me, he ran into me and went down too. I figured that since I took him out, I'd wait up a bit so we could have a fair finish (if he'd have fallen on his own, I wouldn't have waited). Anyway, it took him a while, but he caught up and we had a good sprint. He ended up nipping me at the line, probably by just a couple inches. (This actually generated a little discussion on the MMBA forums...)

I ended up 15th out of 26. Again, not a particularly competitive race on my part, but I don't know that there was much I could've done differently. One thing I do want to take a look at for next year is how I warm up and do my pre-race routine on these colder days. I wasn't cold while racing (after the first lap anyway), but my muscles never really got feeling good and warm either.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

States Prep

So, the last race of the season this Sunday. I've been doing what I can do to prepare for it. I've mostly been resting a lot, but I've gotten in a couple short hard workouts to keep the body primed. I feel like my fitness is a question mark for this weekend, but 'cross isn't all about fitness. If I ride smart and corner aggressively, maybe I can still do pretty well.

I am looking forward to some time off the bike and I'm starting to think about next year. I've been working on a little post-mortem about what happened this 'cross season. It's been an interesting process, but I don't want to post it just yet. I'm trying to stay positive and focused on the Sunday race.

Couple of interesting random things. One is a link to "Iron and the Soul", by Henry Rollins (courtesy of Ross)... pretty cool.

The second is a comment that Sarah made the other day. I was half-watching Transition 2 while I was doing some work in the basement. She watched part of it and commented that the (Pro) racers in that movie were mostly all pretty muscular, whereas at our local races, the guys are "just skinny". In particular, I think she was referring to us "B" racers. It got me thinking a little bit; I remember when I first saw Jon Page at our UCI race, I was surprised that he has a fairly muscular build, for a cyclist anyway. I'm not exactly sure what my point is...