Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Break in Pictures


Nathan's first time playing in the snow...



Cora's first time skating, with Grandpa Feldt!



Aunt Jesse, Nathan and Grandpa at the rink.





Nathan liked his helmet!


Cora modeling Grandma's newest hat!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Getting Started

I started my training for 2011 this week. It's earlier than normal for me, but since my last season ended so early, I'd go crazy if I didn't get going. I'll just have to make sure to take a few breaks in 2011.

I've been on vacation for the past week and a half or so. It's been pretty good, but I've had some really odd back soreness. Right before I finished with work for the year, I had some terrible tightness and pain in my upper back. It slowly went away, but it hurt like crazy. Sarah thinks it was my body finally succumbing to the stress of the year. I don't know.

I'm making some progress with my lower back. It's still sore on occasion, but it's getting better. The training, both riding and lifting, I've done so far haven't made it worse. So I'm pretty happy with that. I'll write more about what I'm doing with my back if it works out like I'm hoping.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Back Exercises

James Wilson has an interesting back exercise sequence on his website. Since my back started bothering me again after pulling Cora around on Saturday, I decided to integrate the sequence into my normal warmup routine last night. I'd already been doing some of the exercises, but the one mobility drill I hadn't done gave me a surprising result.

It was the exercise where you lay on your side and rotate your knees to the ground. On my right side, it was no big deal. Doing it on my left side, I could feel all kinds of tightness in my left hip / IT band. It really surprised me. The tightness was in an area I don't usually work much with the foam roller. So, I did some more rolling in that area (ouch!), and tried the exercise again. There was still some tightness, but it was much better.

So, maybe my tight IT band is also linked to my sore back? I don't know; it certainly isn't helping. I do know that I will keep working the upper end of my IT band on the foam roller though.

I did a contrast shower last night too, focusing on my back. It's been awhile since I've done that. The cold water is so shocking the first time... especially in the winter!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Kid Pulling

I pulled Cora for about 40 minutes in the trailer on Saturday. I need to be careful doing that before I get my cycling legs back... it's tough work! Especially if it's a little windy, like it was on Saturday. Still, I basically felt OK riding; my back got a little tired by the end though.

Cora had a good time again. When I looked back, she was either looking out the windows or looking at her book. We must have ridden about the right length of time though, because she didn't complain about stopping when we got home.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Backing Off

I didn't exercise for most of last week. My back was still bothering me, so I decided to back off and see if I could get it cleared up. The good news is that it now feels about 95% OK; I just have a few sensations at times. I did end up riding (easy) a couple times, and I played hockey Sunday night. So, I didn't totally just sit around.


I also continued to practice my bike handling skills. I feel like I made a little breakthrough with my manuals this week. I'm still not getting back far enough to hold the front wheel up, but I'm definitely getting close. I am getting back far enough that when the front wheel comes down, it lands pretty softly.


I want to get my manuals really dialed in, and then move on to a proper bunnyhop / J-hop. The video linked to here is, by far, the best J-hop video I've seen. I think, maybe because the jump is so big, the different parts of the technique are exaggerated and pretty easy to pick out.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Riding a Little

I was able to ride a little bit over the weekend. On Friday evening, I came home and took Cora out for a ride in the trailer. I didn't really expect to ride long, since the last few times we haven't even made it out of the driveway. We ended up riding for 20-30 minutes, until it started getting dark out! I kept asking Cora if she wanted to go home (since it was cold and windy for me!), and she kept saying no. When I finally told her that we had to go home, she started crying, then she didn't want to get out of the trailer, and then she didn't want to take her helmet off. Of course, when I asked if she had fun, she kept saying, "No, I didn't have fun."

It ended up being a tougher ride for me than I expected. When it's windy, pulling the trailer is tough. I also didn't have enough air in my tires. I realized it almost immediately, but once I started riding, I didn't want to go back home and fill the tires up, since that might have been the end for Cora.

I've been doing some hip-strengthening exercises over the past couple weeks. I was hoping that these exercises would help with my left "knee dive" issue (and ultimately, some of my knee pain), and, based on the ride Friday, they have. We'll see if it continues once I start riding a little harder.

Since I'm writing about the kids, the news with Nathan is that he started saying, "da-da-dad" this weekend. That's cool...

I rode on the trainer for a while on Saturday. The knee felt quite good on the bike, and my legs felt better the longer I rode. My knee was a little achey on Sunday though. The good news is that it felt more like my ache from this Spring rather than my more recent bruise, so I'm hoping that if I re-build sensibly now, I should be OK. I've been doing some jump-roping lately too, and I'm going to try to cut that out and see if it helps. Anyway, it seems like I'm making progress.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Skill Drills

For the last 4 weeks or so, I've really made working on my bike-handling drills a priority. It seemed to have paid off last night, I really felt like I had some breakthroughs.


The first drill that I usually do is the trackstand. I've become progressively more comfortable leaning the bike (and myself) over to maintain my balance. Basically increasing my range of motion on the bike. Usually when I trackstand, I end up rolling forward just a little to maintain my balance. But last night, I was able to hold my balance for quite a while without rolling... really a proper trackstand!


I had a good realization while doing my cornering drills too. I've noticed that I corner better going right than I do going left. I realized that, when turning left, I have a tendency to add steering input with my right hand (since it's my dominant hand I guess); I don't do this when turning right. I've been practicing my cornering drills with my inside hand open for quite a while, so, without thinking too much about, I started working on my corners with both hands open (so I could only push, not pull on the bars). So, there I was, zipping around the driveway, barely hanging on to my bike! Once I realized what I was doing I had to stop and laugh a little. Gene did this when I took his camp last Fall, but I never really thought I would try it. (Disclaimer: Obviously, on a trail, you want to hang on to your handlebars!)


The last drill that went really well was my switchback practice. I haven't practiced making a real turn in a while, I've just been practicing riding around slowly in really tight circles (until I get dizzy). Since I was bored with that, I decided to make mock switchbacks out of squares of pavement on my driveway. I turned left first, no problem, and I felt surprisingly comfortable! I did it again, and went faster! Turning right was not quite as good, but still much better than the last time I'd done it.


It is interesting that when turning fast, I'm more comfortable going right, and turning slow, I'm more comfortable going left. Anyway...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Banged up

I feel like I've got nearly constant aches and pains these days... hopefully it's not a sign of getting older.

I rode my bike on the trainer again this week. A little longer than before, but still a relatively short ride. I didn't have any knee problems while riding, but my legs got a little tired; I could tell I haven't been riding much. The next day though, the knee felt a little achey in the morning. So, I won't increase the duration for the next time I ride and I'll see how that goes.

I played hockey last night and either fell on my butt or smacked it into the boards, so my tailbone is quite sore today. That's never a pleasant injury. Otherwise, I didn't feel like I had a great skate. My skating and puck-handling are not where I'd like them to be, but, I'm only playing once every other week, so I guess I shouldn't expect too much.

My back's been sore on and off over the past few weeks too. I think I tweaked it playing hockey, then aggravated it raking leaves, then aggravated it some more with some of the core exercises I was doing. It's basically OK again right now, but the plan is not to aggravate it any more and get it feeling 100%.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Test Ride

I did a really easy, really short test ride on the trainer last night. I had no knee pain during the ride, and everything still feels good today. So, test #1 passed! Now, I'll try to slowly ramp my riding up. Part of me keeps thinking that I could get to the point where I could race at Springfield Oaks in December, but the more logical part of me thinks that it would be a mistake to try. I wouldn't be competitive, but it would be good to get out there. We'll see how things go...


While I've been waiting for my knee to heal up, I've been working on my upper body and core strength. It's been fun to see the strength improvements in such a short time. I think, in terms of general fitness, you could definitely get reasonably strong and reasonably fit with only brief strength and (intense) conditioning workouts. My workouts have been taking about 45 minutes, but easily half of that is stretching, foam rolling, etc.


Last night I tried towel pullups for the first time. They weren't as hard as I expected; lowering myself back down was definitely a bigger grip challenge than pulling up. Momentum working against you I guess. My thumbs are a little sore today...

Friday, November 05, 2010

Intention

I've run across a couple interesting blog posts. First one is a James Wilson interview with skills coach, Lee McCormack. It's pretty long (about 50 minutes), but there's a lot of interesting stuff. One of the points they talked about was riding with "intention". That is, when you're cornering, really set your edge and corner, when you're climbing, really set yourself up right and get over that hill! Good stuff.

Second thing was a video via Gene's blog. There's some textbook riding on there, particularly one of the last shots of the rider taking a sweeping grassy corner.



My knee has been feeling extremely good lately. It's gotten me thinking I should try to start riding again. It would be really nice to try to get in a few more mountain bike rides this year before the Winter weather really hits.Maybe next week I'll start back in with some easy spins and see how it goes. My experience seems typical of people with bone bruises on the knee: I'll be feeling great, then go down the stairs too fast or something, then ouch!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Figure 8 Wisdom

I'm making some progress. The knee is definitely getting better. It hasn't bothered me doing my skill drills in the driveway, so that's an improvement over last week. I played hockey last night and everything felt OK (and really good today).

I was a little surprised that hockey went as well as it did. The skills were still rusty, but better than last time. What I was surprised about was how good my fitness seemed. I've only been doing some short minute drill stuff for the past couple weeks, not directly working my legs at all, and things were still good. I also took a 1.5 hour nap that afternoon... which probably helped.


One thing I noticed in my driveway sessions this week... I seem to let my bike stand up too much near the end of a corner (usually as I take my first pedal stroke). That tends to be a moment when things can feel a little off for me. If I remember to keep myself balanced over the bike (over the bottom bracket), even if I'm pedaling, that spot gets a lot smoother.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Simulation Bootcamp

I feel like I've been at simulation bootcamp at work for the past few days... weeks... Lots of analyses to run, lots of new problems to solve. The good news is that I'm learning a lot. The bad news is that I'm working too much...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Healing

Well, my knee is back to where it was a couple weeks ago (before I started riding again). It feels more-or-less normal during most activities, but it's still sore to ride at all. I've been practicing some of my Gene drills in the driveway, and I notice a little pain doing that, even though the pedaling is minimal.

My plan is to take it very easy on my knee for another week, and then start to gradually introduce a little more activity. I've been using this time to stretch, work on core and upper body strength, and practice some bike-handling drills. Things have also been very busy at work, so it's just as well that I'm not trying to stay in shape for racing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 Season Review

Well, after being fairly sore for 4 days after my last bit of riding, I've decided to pull the plug on this year's season. I could probably continue to ride a little, but I don't think I can push hard enough to race. From what I've gathered, these bone bruises can take months to heal. Not fun.


So, the 2010 season was kind of a dud. The mountain bike season ended up being short (3 races!) and unspectacular. I got off to a late start and didn't really get in good race shape until the last race of the year (Addison Oaks), and by that point, I was already on to my current injury, I just didn't know it. Still, I moved up to Expert, and at Addison, I beat several people and felt really good, so I know I can hang with the Expert guys. I also had a really good time at the Tree Farm Relay.


'Cross season ended up being one race. I actually rode OK, given that I'd just gotten back from Europe the day before. I need to work on the setup of my new bike a little though. I'm not satisfied with the position of my hoods, and my brake setup isn't quite right yet.


So, rather than dwell on 2010, I'm going to look to 2011. For next year, the key has to be maintaining some consistency. The injuries just killed me this year, although the second one was kind of a freak thing. I'm optimistic that next year will be much better than this year.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Linden CX

No, I didn't race today, but I went out to watch the B race anyway. The weather was perfect and the course looked fun. It made me wish I was racing.

(Mark Caffyn... so fast he's blurry...)

On the other hand, my knee got achey after just pushing the kids around in the stroller this afternoon, so it's probably better that I didn't; I'd hardly be able to walk tomorrow.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Not Quite There

Well, I rode a few times this week with mixed results.

On Monday, I did a nice easy spin through the neighborhood and then a little backyard 'cross practice. The knee felt more-or-less OK, but not perfect. To top it off, I crashed in the backyard going like 2mph. I was making a tight turn from my patio to the yard when my rear tire skipped over a rock, and somehow caused me to fall. Of course, I fell to the same side as my bruised knee. As I was falling, I tried to pull my knee in as much as I could, so I took most of it on my hip. Still, not a good way to get restarted.

I felt terrible on Tuesday night, like I was getting a cold, so I didn't ride. It rained Wednesday night, so I rode the trainer in the basement. I went harder, maybe too hard, and the knee was a little achey afterward, but still not too bad.

Last night, I met up with some Rhinos at Indian Springs and rode the paved trail. I figured it would be a relatively easy ride and a good chance to loosen things up. Frankly, after not riding for the better part of three weeks, I just need to spend time doing anything on my bike. Anyway, my knee didn't feel so hot at first, but it seemed to get better as I kept riding. It was a little cold and rainy, which probably didn't help.

Today, my knee was fairly sore in the area where I bruised it. It felt kind of bad this morning, but it seems to have gotten better as the day has gone on.

So I'm really on the fence about what to do: there are just over 7 weeks left in the season. I could try to push through it, or I could stop now. I don't see how I could rest another couple weeks or so and still hope to do anything at the last races, at least not with all the time I've already missed.

Probably the smart thing to do is to stop for now, but I haven't convinced myself yet...

Monday, October 11, 2010

So Far, So Good

It's been a slow recovery from my trip. There was lots of work waiting for me at work and at home when I got back.


My knee has been feeling pretty good, but I resisted the temptation to ride over the weekend. Today officially marks two weeks of rest (or at least, not riding), so I'm going to try to get on the bike tonight and do an easy spin and see how it feels. If all goes well, I'll get back to riding a normal schedule this week. Unfortunately, I'm sure that my fitness level has dropped over the past 3-4 weeks, so it will be a rough comeback.


I did a little light exercise on Saturday and did the FMS test for the first time in a long time. Surprisingly, the movements that I spent a lot of time working on over the Winter and Spring were still pretty good. The ones that I hadn't worked on as much were not so good.


I played hockey for the first time in a long time last night. I actually skated OK, but I felt a little sluggish and my puck-handling was very rusty. This is early in the season for the group I skated with, so everyone else seemed a bit slow too.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Europe, Part 2

My second trip to Europe (in three weeks!) didn't go as smoothly as the first. I got off to a bad start when my flight out of Detroit was significantly delayed. It caused me to miss my connection to Europe, so I got rebooked. I ended up flying from Detroit to Atlanta to Paris to Nice. That's a long day... to top it off, my luggage didn't show up when I did!

Once I was actually in Monaco, things were fine. The weather was nice (so much nicer than the cold, rainy day I left in Detroit). I had a good time with my colleagues from Germany in the evenings, although I definitely drank too much beer.

I had more time to poke around Monaco on this trip. I walked around most of the Formula 1 course, spent some more time around the palace area, saw the casino, etc.


Working in Monaco is definitely different. It felt a little odd to walk by a Ferrari / high-end Mercedes dealer on my way to the plant every day. It also seems like the place really clears out at night and on the weekend, at least in the non-touristy spots. I found out that all but a few of the people that work in our plant live farther away in France or Italy.

I stayed there over the weekend. On Saturday, I took the train to Nice and met one of my other colleagues. He took me around the old city; we visited with his sister who sells vegetables at the market. Then we went to the climbing gym his club is working on and spent the rest of the day there. Even though I was working (helping to hang drywall on the ceiling and putting together pieces of the wall), it was still kind of fun. Definitely interesting to see how people live away from the tourist areas.


Since I'd been up late almost every night of the trip, I slept in until noon on Sunday. I walked around Monaco a bit and then went to a soccer match being played at the municipal stadium. It's still not clear to me whether these guys were good amateurs or not-so-good professionals. Anyway, it was fun, but I got pretty cooked in the sun. (The woman selling tickets exposed my nearly non-existent French, "Trois euros". Between having to stop and think about what she said and my unfamiliarity with the currency, it took me a while to buy the ticket. She was nice though.)

On Monday night we left for Paris. My air travel woes continued. The plane we were supposed to take had been hit by lightning on the way to Nice. After some delay, they decided that the damage was too significant and it shouldn't fly again. So, we took a later flight and ended up arriving in Paris very late. At least this time, my hotel room was much nicer.

Tuesday morning was my customer meeting and then I flew back home in the afternoon. To get the later flight out of Paris, I had to connect to Detroit via Montreal. Turns out that connecting through Canada is just like making an international connection through the US (actually worse). You have to get your bags, go through customs, then go back through ticketing and security, and, as I found out the next morning, US customs. So, I had no chance to make my connection, even if I'd carried my bag. I ended up spending the night in Montreal and then I took a 5:30am flight home. Yikes!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Setbacks

I ended up picking up a cold last week. Not too surprising given my trip and racing.

I felt more or less better by the weekend, so I took my CX bike out to the club's beginner MTB ride at Bald Mountain. It turned out to be more fun than I thought to ride that bike on the trail. Yeah, it was pretty sketchy a few times, and I'm shocked that I didn't get a flat (40psi on the rear tire), but it was definitely fun to ride. I should probably do that a bit more in the Fall.

The downside to the ride was that I discovered that my knee was still messed up from my fall at the cross clinic. It was very painful that night (probably working around the house all day didn't help). I ended up going to the doctor on Monday. He said that I most likely have a contusion (bruise) on the bone. He had it x-rayed just to make sure it wasn't fractured (it's not). Prescription: quit riding for a couple weeks! I have to agree, every time I've ridden since I fell seems to have set me back.


Also, I'm heading back to Europe this week for work: Monaco and Paris. I can't complain too much about traveling to Monaco. I'd wanted to rent a bike in Monaco and go ride in the mountains, but, given my knee, I'll have to find something else.

So, I'll miss the Munson CX race; I'm also not planning to make the trip down to Cincinnati for the UCI race. Kind of a bummer...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Waterford CX

I went to bed Saturday night not sure if I would race Sunday or not. At some point during the middle of the night, I decided that I would. I figured that my body was already used to getting up early, so why not?

After having not ridden for a week, I had no idea what to expect from my body. As it turned out, racing wasn't so terrible. I actually felt halfway decent for the first lap, but things got rough and I wanted to quit after that. So, really about normal for a cyclocross race!

My only big disappointment was that I was pretty terrible over the barriers. Getting that thought in my head during the race didn't help either. Anyway, that will clean up as I start riding and practicing more regularly again.

I ended up 13th out of 30. Basically about how I usually do. Really not too bad considering...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Europe, Part 1

Almost immediately after finishing the Addison race, I headed out for a business trip to Europe. My knee ended up getting pretty sore and stiff on the plane, but it improved as the week went on.

First stop was Ketsch, Germany. Basically not too much around there, but the hotel was nice and everything went pretty smoothly.

From Ketsch, we took a high-speed train to Paris. I'd been on a high-speed train once before in Japan, but that time, we were in an artificial "canyon" the whole time, so it was really hard to get a sense of the speed. On this train, we were more out in the open, so you got a better sense of how fast it was. Anyway, it was pretty cool.

Apparently, there was a big fashion expo in Paris the night I was there, so hotels were hard to come by. The one we stayed at wasn't so nice... the bed was on the floor (no box spring, bed frame, etc). There was no chair, just a stool. Cleanliness of the carpet was a little suspect. As it turned out, the biggest annoyance was a running toilet. It refilled loudly about every 2 minutes. I ended up sleeping with earplugs in.

I didn't get a chance to spend much time in Paris... that's how business trips go. But I did at least get to see the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, even if only from the car. That made it better than the last time I was in Paris...

Last stop was Monaco (yes, my company has a plant in Monaco). The weather wasn't so great while I was there, but Monaco was otherwise pretty nice. It's a different world there. The yachts were bigger than I expected... some were easily bigger than my house. I also saw lots of nice cars... Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, you name it... I didn't get to spend much time there either before heading home.

The flight home was a little tense. My flight out of Nice was delayed and I ended up having to run through the Frankfurt airport to catch my flight home.

So, one week, no exercise (except the aforementioned airport jog), and the 2nd Waterford Hills cyclocross race the next day. Sounds good...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Addison Oaks XC

It was a busy weekend for me. Saturday was the FRCC cross clinic. I almost decided not to go to the instructional part, but I decided that I could always learn something. I ended up picking up a couple of interesting points. Mostly detail stuff, but still worthwhile.


It started raining pretty hard near the end of the instructional part of the clinic. While we were doing some relatively slow laps of the course, I fell pretty hard on my knee. I'm not sure if the bike hit my kneecap or my kneecap hit a rock/root, but it was pretty painful.


At that point, we still had an hour or so to wait until the race. I decided to head home instead of waiting in the cold / rain. Particularly considering that I was going to race my mountain bike on Sunday and then come to Europe. It was a good call I think, I didn't realize how cold I was until I got in the shower at home.


I wasn't really keyed up for the race at Addison on Sunday morning. I knew I was leaving for my trip in the afternoon and my knee was still sore. With regard to the knee: I hoped it would feel better once I warmed up. I also figured I wouldn't hurt it any worse by racing. It seemed like it was just the bruise on the surface that was the problem, rather than anything internal.


My first lap of the race was pretty rough. It seemed like I was physically going OK, but my bike handling wasn't sharp. I also got held up a couple times passing some of the Expert women. They were riding fine, I just caught them at some inopportune times. In the process, two of the guys I figured I should be able to beat got well ahead of me.


The first part of my second lap was about the same, except my knee started to hurt. I tried to assess what was going on while riding. Again, it still seemed like it was just the bruise, so I kept going. Near the end of my second lap, I started feeling good about my handling, so that helped my mood considerably.


From that point on, I physically started feeling strong and I felt like my handling was getting better. Then, I started reeling people in and dropping them. It was pretty cool. I've never gotten stronger during the race like I did on Sunday. I attribute it to the good base I've built up this year.


There were also a lot of Rhinos out spectating on the course (John, Paulie, Andrea, maybe more...). Their cheering definitely kept me fired up.


My lap times basically confirmed what I felt. My first lap was the fastest and my second lap was the slowest. But my third and fourth laps were only about 15s slower than my first lap! Maybe that means I could/should have started harder, but I think a lot of the gain had to do with my improved handling and confidence in the later laps.


Anyway, it turned out to be a good race for me. I ended up 15th out of the 18 finishers in my class, which was an improvement over my placement at Pontiac Lake (DFL). The bruise on my knee definitely got more sore (especially on the airplane!), but it hasn't turned into anything too bad.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Many Dimensions of Hosed

There are many dimensions of being hosed:

- I foolishly rode on Saturday morning without knee warmers (I did embrocate though!) in 55F degree weather, up hills, for 3.5 hours. Which helped lead to my next two problems.

- My knees have been a bit achey the past several days, although they seem to be coming around now.

- I seem to be fighting off a cold. My legs felt terrible at the track last night, and I started feeling a bit sick after I got home. I decided not to ride to work today (or do a short-track race tonight), and I seem to be feeling a bit better.

- I've gone on a couple VERY short runs, also probably not ideal for my knees, but again, they do seem to be getting back to normal. It's amazing how crappy my legs feel after running even a little while.

- I'm going to be going to Europe next week. It's kind of a cool itinerary (middle-of-nowhere Germany, Paris, Nice/Monaco), but since it's a work trip, its coolness will probably be limited. I'll also be getting home on Saturday, meaning I'll miss the first cyclocross race of the year. I sort of doubt that I'll want to race on Sunday, but we'll see. I don't think I'll have to travel anymore this year though.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Field Test

I seemed to be mostly recovered from my "training camp" by Sunday. The Stony Creek XC race was also Sunday, but I decided that racing for 2+ hours probably wasn't the best idea; for whatever reason, I also just had no desire to race... maybe I've raced there too much over the past few years. I don't know.


Anyway, I decided to do a LT field test instead; still a hard effort, but much shorter. Even though the basement was a little hot, I still made a pretty good effort. I ended up producing my second best ever power number (my best ever at this point in a season), so I was very happy with that.


My heart rate was on the low side again though, and I'm really not sure what to make of it. Prior to this year, my average heart rate was consistently around 186bpm for these tests. This year, it's been noticeably lower, yesterday was 179bpm. I definitely pushed to my limit, so that wasn't the issue. I suppose I could put it down to the general variability of heart rate, fatigue from my riding earlier in the week, etc, but it seems like my previous tests were so consistent... I don't know. I'm not going to lose sleep over it, but I would like to find an explanation.


The other thing that cropped up again (which may be related to HR) was that I had trouble finding a good gear to ride in. The same thing happened last Fall. Seemed like I had to spin the gear that I used for most of the test a little too fast, but the next gear was a little too hard on my legs. I see now that there is a 2-tooth step between the gears I was using, so that partially explains it.


It seems to me like, if you're not in an optimal gear, you may not be able to hit your "correct" threshold heart rate because you're not really hitting your threshold power.


It's funny that I get all hung up on these numbers when I do the tests. Most of the time, my only "training tool" is a stopwatch (and a GPS if I'm on unfamiliar roads). As it is, my HRM is pretty low-end, and my "power meter" is a calibrated trainer... so, it's probably best not to get too carried away with this stuff...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Change Those Cables!

As a matter of course, I usually change the cables and housings on all of my bikes in the Spring. I did it on my mountain bike this year, but not my cross bike, since I was thinking about getting a new one.

So, everything was fine until a month or so ago, when I could no longer shift into the big ring. "No problem" I thought, probably just cable stretch or something a little out of adjustment. Once I got home I took a harder look. Hmm... seemed like the shifter wasn't pulling any cable... not good.

I didn't do anything with it for a couple weeks, hoping that I didn't need to replace the shifter itself ($$$). Finally, I got a chance to work on it again yesterday. Turns out that wires from the cable housing were getting sucked into the shifter (how that even happens, I have no idea), but once the wires got in there far enough, they jammed things up pretty good.

So, after a quick trip to the bike shop for new cables and housings, the bike is back to working normally. So, change those cables!


Summer Training Camp

I did a little "Summer training camp" last week. My family rented a cottage in Pentwater last week, and I took my bike and rode in the mornings.

Day 1 - A little over 3 hours in the saddle. I did some "cruise intervals" during the second hour of the ride. I ended up on some good roads that had lots of nice rolling hills. One thing that the map doesn't show is all of the wind! Inland, there was a pretty strong wind from the North, and then, as I got closer to the lake, the wind seemed like it was more from the West. Definitely some tough going in spots where I was out in farmland and had no protection. This ended up being my toughest ride.


Day 2 - Almost 4 hours in the saddle, although not by design. Much less windy than the day before and I took it a bit easier. The directions I was following, from MapMyRide, had some errors. They showed me going over some dirt roads and some places where there were no roads! I muddled my way through, but I did end up on some very sandy dirt roads. The sand was deep enough in places that I had to get off and walk. A narrow road tire at 80psi just sinks too deep in the sand to ride it! I saw lots of pumpkin fields while I was out there, which was kind of interesting. It was mostly a good ride, but I didn't particularly enjoy riding back down to Pentwater along the lake. The road was just too narrow and rough and there was a little too much traffic.



Day 3 - About 2.5 hours in the saddle, and Dad rode with me. This ended up being the hilliest ride I did; we also put in a 50 minute "tempo" effort in the middle. There was a tour in the area the weekend before, and there were a couple signs painted on the road. My favorite was "Climb Time" just before a tough little climbing section... hey, when you're tired, the little things are funny. The tempo effort was pretty good for me; I probably need to do that type of training on the road more. Dad did a good job hanging with me too!


In general, it was a good week of riding. The roads were good (and hilly), and most people around there seem to be used to people on bikes. I only had one incident where someone passed me too close, and then Dad and I had another when someone (who presumably misjudged our speed) pulled out in front of us and we had to brake hard. I was pretty tired by the end of the trip though. We also went to bed late most nights and the kids were up early, so that was kind of a tough combination. Still, I think I will appreciate that little training block when cyclocross season heats up.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Standing

I've been working a bit on my standing pedaling lately. It's kind of a long story, but I want to try standing more over short climbs and see if it doesn't help my overall speed.

Interestingly, almost as soon as I started working on this again, my left knee started feeling just a little off and my IT band has been tighter again. This is the same knee I injured this Spring. I had also been working on standing pedaling at that time. (On the other hand, I've also ridden 9.5 hours over the past 5 days, so that may have something to do with it.)

From a number of different articles and talking to different people, I understand that proper standing technique is to keep the back straight/arched (not rounded) and hips over the pedals. I doubt that I consistently do this, at least not the back straight part. The articles suggest that, if your back is rounded, you don't effectively use the muscles in the hips and glutes, and you end up recruiting other muscles, like the IT band. Which, in my case, I know can lead to the knee issue.

Monday, August 09, 2010

PLRA XC: Crashfest 2010

OK, so maybe "crashfest" is an overstatement, but I did have some of the biggest crashes I've had this year. I'm definitely feeling the effects today...

I didn't really have any expectations for the race. I was hoping my legs would feel halfway decent, and I was hoping I didn't have to go into "survival mode" too early. I also didn't want to finish last.

The pace was pretty high off the start, but not unmanageable. I was doing fine sticking with the back part of the field. I could immediately see how the Expert racers were different. Everyone basically rides well, and everyone knows how to pass and be passed. It's nice.

In the first part of the race, I was riding around a group of four. It looked like I was stronger on the climbs and flats, and they were stronger technical riders. On the first lap, I'd made a gap to some of them before the second half of the trail. Then, my first crash: a pretty easy sweeping left-hander and my bike just washed out. I'm pretty sure it was a case of leaning my body too much relative to my bike. I fell pretty hard on my left hip, but it didn't bother me right away. By the end of the first lap, our little group was back together. (Now that I look at the results, these guys must not have all been in my class.)

We eventually all split up again on the second lap. A couple guys went ahead, but I knew I still had one guy well behind me. I was still feeling more-or-less OK for most of the second lap, but I could feel my hip starting to get sore.

I was getting pretty tired early on the third lap and I was basically riding alone. The last time up "2-mile hill" put the hurt on me and I wasn't thinking very clearly coming down the descent. I got target fixation on a decent-sized rock on the trail (my brain was just going "rock, rock, rock")... with predictable results. I bashed into the rock; I must have also been on the brakes, because I went over the bars and off the trail. I sat there for a couple seconds trying to figure out if I was hurt. Eventually I realized that I wasn't, so I took off again.

The last crash took a lot of the fight out of me, and I was basically in survival mode for the rest of the lap. With about 3 miles to go, the guy who'd been behind me for so long finally caught and passed me. Pretty much nothing I could do about it at that point. So I ended up being the last finisher in our class.


Even with the crashes and bad result, I still felt pretty good about the race. I rode OK and my legs felt the best that they have in weeks. I think, as my fitness progresses, that I should be able move up a bit in the field. The main thing that I noticed was that, even though I'm riding better, there are still sections of the trail where I'm not as confident and slow down. It was clear to me that this is where huge gaps were opening up. I'm not fit enough right now to close those gaps down, at least not so many times per lap for three laps.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Mixed Progress

A lot of mountain bikers from the club met at Pontiac Lake to ride last night. My plan was to get there early and ride one lap alone, and then ride two with the group. As I mentioned in my last post, I also wanted to (gently) push against my boundaries a little.


I felt like I ended up doing a pretty decent job of staying relaxed and letting the bike roll through some of the faster parts. There are still a few sections / corners where I have mental hang-ups, but, in general, I rode better and still felt in control. I need to keep practicing my Gene drills though; the corners go so much better when you use the correct technique!


We split the group in two and I rode with the faster group. The pace was a little faster than I expected, but I was doing OK. It was interesting to follow. It seemed like any trouble I had keeping up was due to fitness. No offense to these guys, but they are not necessarily super-strong riders (of course, I'm not either), so I was a little surprised that they were pulling away on the flats. Of course, with my knee injury this Spring, my fitness is nowhere near where it should be. Last year, which also wasn't a particularly good year, I'd been riding for 17 weeks before the PLRA XC race; this year, it will only be 9 weeks!


One of the downsides to riding the technical parts faster is that you have to be a little bit more careful about what you ride over (or how you do it), since you tend to hit things harder. I was riding through a big dip when I felt (and heard) my rear wheel bottom out hard on a sharp rock on the way back up. Not good. A minute or so later, I could feel that the tire had gone soft. My first flat in 2.5 years with my Stan's setup. I put my spare tube in and tried to pump that up... but the tube was bad too. By this time, the "slow" group had caught me, and John let me borrow his tube. That one worked, but it ended up being a super slow tire change.


Everyone else was only riding one lap, and without an extra tube, I decided it probably wasn't the best idea to go out for a third lap. So, I'll have to re-seal my tire before the race on Sunday. I may decide to run with a little extra pressure; I was only at 28 psi or so. I'm sure I could bump it up a little without changing the handling too much.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Confidence Gap

"You may think you believe what you know, but you really only believe what you feel."
- Malcolm Gladwell

For whatever reason, I had the realization the other day that I'm probably riding noticeably below my skill level. I've worked on my riding skills a lot over the last year and a half, but my actual riding hasn't necessarily kept up. I'm not sure if it's due to riding alone, habit, not racing or what, but I've gotten to the point where I'm rarely stressed by the trails I ride. I know for sure that I often hit the brakes when I don't need to (I get through the corner and think "gee, I didn't need to slow down that much"). I'm much more comfortable on descents than I used to be. I can pretty comfortably ride over the trail obstacles around here.

Although I still have plenty of room for improvement skill-wise, I also believe, in my gut, that I'm much better than I'm showing.

So, for now, it seems like I'm bumping up against a confidence ceiling rather than a skill ceiling. I'm planning to get in several mountain bike rides this week (including my first Expert race at Pontiac Lake). I think the plan will be to try to relax, have a fun attitude, and let it rip.

I've been thinking back to my car racing / karting days recently. My mantra for squeezing out more speed was: "Relax, look ahead, be smooth."

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Trip and Tubulars

The trip to Boston went much better than I expected. The kids did well as could be expected in the car and at night, so it was about as relaxing as it was going to get.


When I got back, I was suprised to see an email that we were starting cyclocross practice at the track this week! Cyclocross already? Really?


So, I packed up the new bike and took it to the track last night. I brought my tubular tires and wheels to try out with the new bike. I had a fleeting thought that I should really check the glue, but I'd already aired up the tires so I didn't.


Things went OK at the track. Between the heat and not having ridden in a week, I didn't feel so great, but I managed. The SRAM drivetrain worked OK with the Shimano cassette, maybe just a little noisier when shifting to the bigger cogs. I still need to get used to the shifting though. I found myself not shifting when I should have just because I wasn't confident with it. A few times I tried to shift to an easier gear when I was already in the biggest cog, which resulted in going to a harder one... not nice!


Otherwise, I really liked the bike. The handling seemed quicker than my old bike; this was one of the main reasons I chose the Salsa over the Bianchi that I tried. The carbon fork also seemed to help damp out some of the vibration from the always-bumpy surface at Waterford.


Right near the end of the night, I was trying to make a fast tight corner around a tree when my front wheel slid out. It was a small crash, so I hopped right back on the bike and got going again. Then I could hear something thumping on my bike. I got back off and spun the front wheel, it went halfway around and stopped. The tire had partially rolled off the rim and was hitting the brakes. I popped it back on and kept going. Knowing that the glue was suspect, I didn't push hard for the rest of the night. So, now I've rolled my first tubular. It really wasn't too big of a deal, but I'll get them re-glued before I use them again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finally!

I finally seem to have broken through my fatigue! Monday morning was the first day in about two weeks where I woke up and didn't feel tired. That's no good for riding! I've been battling a toothache for the past few weeks too; I went to the dentist again yesterday and I think we've got it figured out.


I've got a little vacation coming up this week. The family is going to Boston (by car), so it will be interesting to see if I get any rest on that trip or not.


The Pontiac Lake cross-country race is just after I get back. It will be my first Expert race. I'm sort of looking forward to it, and sort of not. I still don't feel like I have any high-end fitness. At least Pontiac Lake is a trail that I know really well.

Novi Relay

I had a good time at the Novi Tree Farm Relay this weekend, despite some bad weather and some not-so-good riding. It ended up raining a lot before we raced and some during the race, so the trail was pretty muddy.

I got there early to try to get a good feeling about riding on the trail (I hadn't ridden my mountain bike in a week). After my recon ride (maybe it was too short?), I didn't feel great about my Kenda Karma tires in the mud. Maybe I just don't have enough experience riding them yet; certainly plenty of people rode well on less-knobby tires. Anyway, I decided to switch to my mud tires (some old Geax Barro's) mounted to my old wheels.

I rode 3rd on our team. The trail was in a little worse shape than when I'd ridden it earlier, but it wasn't terrible. I didn't ride particularly well that first lap, lots of little bobbles (and one topple), and I didn't push myself as hard as I should have. It rained on me a few times, but it didn't really affect me too much.


Everybody on the team was turning in decent laps though, and we were in 2nd place when I started my second lap. It had stopped raining for my second lap, but the trail was much muddier. I felt like I rode much better the second lap, no bobbles and better pacing, but the mud slowed me enough that my lap time was a little slower. In terms of pacing, it seemed to help me to have Sport racers to chase down. In contrast, my first lap was basically a time trial, I only saw one other person on the trail.

The team ended up a pretty solid 2nd place in Advanced Co-ed. 1st place was a long way ahead of us, and 3rd place was pretty far behind us. I ended up with the 2nd fastest aggregate time on our team, so I guess I rode OK, but I was really shooting for lap times under 50 minutes.

This race sort of reminded me of the Ruby Campground race last year. Same last minute tire changes, questionable rest and fitness, sub-par bike handling, low motivation, first race of the year, etc. Just got a much better result this time around.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Recovery Time!

It's definitely time to try to recover. I got a somewhat rude reminder of that at the track last night. It was a TT night, and my main objective was to try to pace myself better. Last time I went out too hard and rode inconsistent laps. I felt like I did pace myself a better this time, but I only ended up riding one second faster than last time.


We just did one race after that. My front derailleur suddenly decided not to work properly (it was fine for the TT), so I had to do the race in the small ring. I'd like to blame my poor performance on that, but it probably didn't make much difference. I ended up getting popped only a lap and a half in... not so good. The race wasn't so fast that I shouldn't have been able to at least hang on.


I was pretty worn down all last week and I haven't gotten off to a good start this week. My nutrition was bad (for me) last week too. Anyway, it's all just an indication that I need to rest up. So, the plan is to take it easy for the rest of this week. I'll try to get out for a little while on Friday night to wake up the legs before the race on Saturday, but that's about all I plan to do.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Maiden Voyage

This week ended up being a long one. It was the last week of a training block, I was busy at work, and Nathan wasn't wanting to go to sleep. That's how it goes sometimes I guess.

Friday night, Cora helped me clean up the bikes in preparation for the weekend. She liked putting soap on the tires...



I did some riding at Lakeshore Park on Saturday in preparation for the relay next weekend. Apparently, my Friday preparation was lacking... I forgot to bring a mini pump or CO2 inflator (fortunately, I didn't need them) and I forgot to put a bottle cage on my mountain bike. So I ended up riding around with a bottle in my jersey pocket... not ideal for a hot, humid day.

I rode 2.5 loops on Saturday, and I'm feeling pretty well-prepared for the race. It should be a good time.

I've been so busy that I haven't posted this yet, but I bought a new 'cross bike. I ended up deciding on a Salsa Chili con Crosso. I also tested out a Bianchi Cross Concept. Each bike had it's own advantages and disadvantages, it was a hard choice to make. Regardless, either one was a step up from my current bike.

Here's the Salsa this morning before it's maiden voyage...


I set out today in search of some hilly dirt roads. This time, I rode from home and headed out toward Davisburg. Some local singlespeed guys are doing a self-supported ride next weekend called the "Spartacus 100", since they had the route posted, I thought I'd check it out... at least, the first part.

The roads they picked were pretty decent: mostly low traffic and in basically good condition. It just wasn't as hilly as I'd hoped for (at least, not on a geared bike!). My GPS and SportTracks calculated only 425ft of climbing over the 3 hours. My Auburn Hills / Lake Orion routes easily give me 600-800ft in much less time (I still want to improve those too!).

Oh well, the weather was perfect for a ride this morning, and I really liked the new bike, so I can't complain too much. I will need some time to adapt to the SRAM shifting though. There were a few times when I was trying to shift to an easier gear but didn't make the second click, and ended up in a harder gear. Not really a problem on the road, but it could be bad on the 'cross course. Still, it's just the first ride, so I'm sure I'll get the hang of it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Singlespeedy

"Dude, you're killing it on that singlespeed!"


I'm opening my racing season this year with the Novi Tree Farm Relay. It should be a pretty fun race; the Rhinos are bringing 4 teams, so that will be cool.


I got out there for a group ride on Sunday. I brought my singlespeed, thinking it would be an easier-paced ride... it wasn't. I was able to hang pretty well anyway. With the rigid fork, the little chattery roots were killing my hands though.


I was reminded again how important good vision habits are to riding singletrack quickly. On sections where there was less underbrush and I could see pretty far ahead, I felt like I was ripping along pretty well. When the brush got heavy and I couldn't see, I was way slower...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Commute

I rode my bike to work today for the first time in years (since 2005!). Back in 2004, I commuted pretty regularly, but I stopped as I got more serious about racing. I decided to start back up again in an attempt to get a little more riding in during the week. The route I took today is a little less direct than my 2004 route and ended up being about 11.5 miles... pretty hilly as I get close to work too.


The riding was nice, but I've forgotten a few things about commuting. The big one was that it isn't so comfortable to carry a bunch of stuff on your body. Today I took my clothes, shoes, lunch, cable lock, and some basic repair stuff, all in a messenger bag. I used to bring my clothes and shoes ahead of time so I didn't have to carry them around. I also used to have a rear rack on my commuter bike so I didn't have to carry stuff on my back; I didn't particularly like the way that changed the handling of the bike though.


Next time, I think I will at least bring in my clothes and shoes ahead of time. It should cut down on the bulk of the bag quite a bit.


I was pleasantly surprised at how much stronger I felt than I did back in 2004 (I guess it shouldn't be a big surprise). I always used to suffer a bit on the hills as I got close to my office. Today though, they just didn't seem as bad as I remembered.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Shifty

I had a nice weekend of riding. People have been complaining a bit about the heat (it's been above 90F during the day), but I've been enjoying it. Maybe it's because my knee was messed up this Spring and I'm still in the mode where I'm just happy to be riding at all.


On Saturday, I did some laps out at Addison Oaks. It's definitely become one of my favorite trails to ride. I was thinking about how, when 'cross season starts, I always have to pay more attention to my shifting. It's very obvious when you're in the wrong gear when you're racing wheel-to-wheel with someone. It made me wonder if I do the same thing on the trail, but just don't notice since, even in a race, there's usually no one right in front of me. It's something I'll try to work on a bit.


I tried for another hilly ride on Sunday. I've definitely found a good hill, on Drahner Rd, near Bald Mountain / Addison Oaks, but the rest of the roads I checked out were a little too flat. They did have plenty of momentum-sucking sandy gravel though! So, the hilly ride is still a work in progress...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

First Track Night

I went to my first Waterford Hills track night of the year (I can't believe June is almost over!). Things went a little better than I expected, and it was nice to see everyone again.


It was a time trial night. I don't do these regularly enough to accurately measure progress, but I was hoping for a good effort to kind of make up for my bad test over the weekend. I ended up coming in around 19.7 minutes. Not a super time, but I was happy with my effort.


I'd sort of forgotten that we usually do a little race after the TT. I realized it as I'm already standing around with the "A" group. "What, we're doing a race? This is going to hurt." My plan was basically just to try to sit in the group and make it to the end. I felt a little rusty in terms of my group riding; a little more twitchy than I would like. Hopefully no one found me to be too annoying. I was pleasantly surprised that I felt like I knew what was going on in terms of reading the race, following wheels, etc. I still made a couple little mistakes, but I didn't feel as clueless as I used to. Anyway, I got popped with about two corners to go. I probably could have caught back on if I really tried, but I wouldn't have been able to do anything at the finish, so I decided it was good enough.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

LT Test - Oops

I'm watching the US vs Ghana... not looking good so far...

I was originally planning to ride with the Bald Mtn group this morning, but it looked like a storm was coming on the radar, so I scrapped it. It got dark at my house, but never did rain. Oh well.

I did my LT field test instead. Historically, I've had problems going out too hard on this test and blowing up before I get to the end. Today, for the first time I think, I did the opposite. I kept holding back until it was too late. I don't know if it was a motivation problem or just that I haven't done a hard effort in a long time.

My (trainer) power number was lowish, but not terrible. My average heartrate was about 8bpm lower than it should have been though. That's a pretty good indication that I didn't go as hard as I could have. Room for improvement for next time I guess.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hilly Ride

I'd planned to do this ride tomorrow morning and a mountain bike ride today, but since we got hit with a big storm last night, I figured that most of the trails would still be soggy. Basically, I sat down with a topographical map and figured out which roads looked to be the hilliest and the most lightly traveled.

As it turned out, just getting out of the house ended up being a challenge. I wanted to ride my 'cross bike, which has been sitting on the trainer all Winter. I needed to change tires, put on a bottle cage, etc. Just little stuff, but it takes time (especially when it takes three tries to get a tube that will hold air!). Plus, there were kids that needed to be fed, dogs to be taken out...

Once I finally got going, I ended up having a good ride. I didn't push too hard, I just let the hills, rough dirt roads, and heat do their thing. I flatted about 20 minutes into the ride; I wasn't happy about that, but I fixed it and my last tube held on for the rest of the ride. I don't know that I'd do this exact ride again. A couple roads ended up being better than I expected, and a couple were worse. I'd forgotten how evil washboarded climbs are... the climb itself is bad enough, then the washboarded road sucks away what little momentum you have...

By the end, I was pretty cooked. My legs were right on the edge of cramping as I climbed up my last climb (Bald Mountain Road in Auburn Hills). So, I figure that I did it about right. We'll see how I feel tomorrow for my ride...




Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tires vs Technique

I rode at Pontiac Lake on Thursday night. I was thinking it would rain all weekend, so I wanted to take advantage of the good weather. I'd been feeling like I was reasonably fit on the group rides I was doing. I don't know if it was the trail, or because I was riding faster by myself, or what, but I'm not as fit as I thought. I definitely felt worse riding than I usually do when I have "mid-season" fitness. To be expected I guess...


I've still been using my Hutchinson Python tires. They probably won't become my favorites, but they're really not too bad. The tread pattern reminds me of my Michelin Mud cyclocross tires. Anyway, using them has gotten me thinking about how my technique has improved. A couple years ago, I probably would have crashed a few times already on these tires, particularly in some of the muddy and sandy conditions I've been riding in. This year, no problem so far. The difference is that I'm doing a much better job of loading the tires in the corner and staying on top of my bike (leaning my bike more than my body). If you do that, even if the tires slip a little, it's no problem...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Trails

I finally got some riding in on real trails this weekend. Turns out that I'm not quite as rusty as I expected.


On Saturday, I went to the Rhino club ride at Bald Mountain; it's a super mellow paced ride. It's a good chance for me to focus on specific skills without worrying about much else. I tried some old Hutchinson Python tires that I've had for years. The last time I used them (2005?!?!), I had too much pressure in them and I crashed all over the place. I also just wasn't as good of a rider as I am now. This time out, I ran 30-35psi (tubed) and found that the tires worked just fine.


Sunday, I met a couple people and rode at Holdridge. It was my first time out there; it's closer to my house than I thought, so I'll have to try to get out there a bit more. It was raining a bit on my way out, but I thought it would clear up since the radar was clear. Nope. It rained almost the whole time. We rode a little on the trails, but cut it short since it was pretty muddy. I guess we got there too late; we talked to a couple guys who had just finished riding and they didn't look nearly as muddy as we were. We rode dirt roads for a little while then packed it in. I don't think anyone was too motivated to keep riding around in the rain.


In general, I felt a lot better than I expected to. My bike handling skills seemed pretty decent; in some ways probably better than last year already (I'll credit my Gene drills). My fitness seemed a little better than I expected too.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Little Things

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

I read an article (and subsequent letters) in Road Bike Action about Keith Ketterer, who is pretty much a regular guy that recently set a 1-hour Masters record. The main story was kind of ho-hum, but his responses to questions were interesting. Since it was in my Dad's magazine, I can't quote it directly, but the question was something like: 'How do you balance trying to achieve such a difficult goal with the rest of your life?'

The part of his answer I found interesting was something like: 'You can't try to maintain the same motivation and same training required to achieve a goal like this year after year. If you do, you'll end up divorced, unemployed and burned out.'

This year has been rough for me. The knee injury set me back big time, and it's just tough to train with a new baby around. I sort of decided that I just need to accept that this year will not be my best year and not worry about it too much. I've actually got some good momentum built up to tackle some long overdue house projects, so I feel like I should waste that either (since it doesn't come around too often!). Anyway, I'm probably not going to really change my training, just maybe re-prioritize things a little.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Graduated PT

So, I "graduated" from physical therapy last night. The knee was just a little sore yesterday afternoon, but I've made so much progress, both Clint and I decided that I probably don't need to keep going to PT. I'll just have to keep up with rolling and stretching my IT band on my own.


It's really pretty amazing how quickly my knee improved once we hit on the right thing. We didn't start working the IT band until last Wednesday, and now, one week later, my knee almost feels normal and I'm back to riding. Pretty cool! I definitely wouldn't have progressed so quickly on my own.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Real Progress

I'm making real progress on the knee. Ever since we started focusing on the IT band at PT (and at home), it seems like my knee has made significant improvement every day.

This weekend was a pretty good test. I rode the trainer on Saturday since it rained most of the day. I did the bulk of the ride at a Zone 2 pace without any problems. On Sunday, I spent most of the morning cutting up the tree that fell in our backyard, and clearing out the vines and brush that fell with it. Immediately after that, I rode my mountain bike for a while over at Waterford Oaks. I probably rode harder than I should have, but my knee still felt OK on the bike. I noticed it felt a little tired after I stopped, but that feeling went away quickly.

I picked up a new book last week, The Knee Crisis Handbook. It hasn't been quite what I expected, but it's pretty decent. I just read through the section on stretching and made an interesting observation. Recall that I'd been working pretty hard over the Winter and early Spring on improving my flexibility. I saw that I'd been doing every stretch in the book, except one, the IT band stretch. I'd also been self-massaging most of the muscles acting on the knee, except the IT band. So, my new theory is that, by regularly stretching the other muscles acting on the knee, my IT band became relatively tight and started pulling my knee out of whack. I think that's why my knee has responded so quickly to the PT work to massage and stretch the IT band.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Knee Test

I went back to PT last night. He had taped my knee the previous session to try to move my kneecap a bit, and it caused me some new pain while riding. Based on that result, he worked on my IT band quite a bit (ouch!). He also wanted me to give my knee a good "test" on the bike.

I was a little skeptical about riding harder, but I decided that that's why I went to him instead of someone else who might not push me. So, I got up this morning, rolled my IT band (more ouch!) and hopped on the bike. I warmed up for about 10 minutes and then ramped it up. I didn't push super hard, but I went a lot harder than I've gone in the last 2 months, more like a low-end tempo pace. Anyway, I did that for about half an hour, then cooled down. No problems! (Except that I felt out-of-shape.)

Honestly, I'm pretty surprised at how it went; even yesterday morning I was still feeling pretty achey. I don't know if the improvement was from loosening up the IT band or something else, but I'll take it. If nothing else this has given me some encouragment that I may not be that far away from resuming a more "normal" riding schedule.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Knee Story

So, I went to see a phyiscal therapist last week for my knee. I saw Clint Verran, who is also a serious runner and fast cyclist. I actually raced against him in cyclocross last year. I figured that he would "get it".

Anyway, like my doctor, after checking some other things, he also focused in pretty quickly on my meniscus. With two qualified people now telling me the same thing, I think it's probably a pretty safe bet that I have a meniscus tear. Given that I'm not having problems with the knee locking, giving out, etc, it seems like I shouldn't need surgery for it, so that's good.

I did some research on meniscus tears after I got home, trying to figure out how I might have done it. While mowing the lawn yesterday, I sort of pieced together how it might have all gone down.

Way back at the end of 2004, I remember going for a run in cold weather (maybe it was around Thanksgiving?). I probably hadn't been running for a while, and I doubt that I warmed up (that's sort of how I did things back then). I remember that my legs (calves?) eventually got really tight, and that I felt a little pop when I was stretching after I got home. Probably I was still cold while stretching. I remember some pain at the time, but I don't think it lasted long at all, so I sort of discounted it. I think that's probably when I tore it though. I also don't remember ever having knee problems before then. According to my limited training logs from that time, it looks like I struggled with some nagging pain off and on for about 4 months!

Over the next several years, I would occasionally have issues with my left knee, usually when I would try to do something out of the ordinary. I documented a few of them (Vail hike , MCB run). It seemed that I'd finally gotten rid of the issue when I tweaked my position on the bike a little, and I also started being more careful about building up to unusual (for me) activities (like hiking at Yosemite last year).

Fast forward to the Spring of 2010. I'd been working hard on improving my flexibility and eliminating muscle imbalances, and it had been a long time since I'd had left knee issues, which I'd come to call "bad old days" pain. I'd become a little less cautious about protecting my left knee. So, as I'm increasing intensity lifting weights, and adding volume on the bike (there's probably at least a minor training error in there), I also added a new flexibility exercise. This exercise called for assuming a deep squat position with feet straight ahead; knees a little wide because the arms were touching the floor in front...

If you look up typical causes for meniscus tears, you usually find something like: "knee joint is bent while the knee is twisted". Pretty much exactly what I was doing. Probably (I hope) I didn't introduce a new tear, since I didn't feel any pain while doing it, but I think that's the culprit for this re-aggravation. I ran this by Clint and he agreed that it could have caused my problem.

The bad news is, based on my past experience and my current rate of progress, I may still be out of commission for a while. But I think the good news is that I've done this before and I have recovered before, so I feel like I can do it again. Now that I know (and accept) what is wrong, I think I can probably successfully work around it once I'm recovered.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brighton Stage Race

This weekend was the Brighton Stage Race. At the beginning of the year, I'd planned that this would be my first race, but, obviously, it hasn't worked out that way. The Rhinos were the sponsoring club this year, so I decided to go out and help.

I ended up marshalling one of the first corners on the TT course, where it came out onto the road. It was pretty uneventful: only two cars went through over the whole 2+ hours I was there. But, you need someone there, just in case.

It was kind of interesting to watch the entire field go through. I mean, I watch other racers when I'm at races, but not every single person! It was a pretty non-technical corner; the only thing that made it a little tricky was that there was a little sand at the edge of the road, and then the road itself was a little loose. After watching a few people go through, it became clear that the best line was to start wide and turn late, getting most of your turning done in the dirt, and then go more-or-less straight through the sand and onto the road. Something about the trail visually sucked you to an inside line though. Nobody crashed, but quite a few people were surprised at the lack of grip in the road.

Anyway, I'd say almost all of the Elite racers took the correct line, about 75% of the Expert racers did, less than 50% of the Sport riders did, and almost no Beginners got it right. Although, by the time you got to the slower Sport and Beginner riders, they were going slow enough that the line really didn't matter. For the record, I probably would have ridden the corner wrong if I'd been racing.

Near the end of the race, a racer rode up to my spot and started waiting for his kid to come by. A bunch of kids had just passed a few minutes earlier, so we figured that he missed him. Anyway, it got me thinking that, hopefully, I'll still be racing in another 10-15 years. In that context, missing a season because of injury isn't such a big deal, just a bump in the road.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Getting Better, Again

Looks like I'm overdue for an update. The knee is getting better, again. I took a week almost completely off, then resumed my super-easy rides. The last couple days, my knee has been quite good, almost no pain/discomfort, but I think it will still be awhile before it's "normal" again.


I will be out volunteering at the Brighton Stage Race this weekend. I had targeted this as my first race of the year, so it's a little disappointing to see it here while I'm nowhere close to racing. But, it will be fun to be at the race. And I know that I will get better, eventually.


Otherwise, things are good. The new baby is keeping us busy. He's approaching 6 weeks old, supposedly the peak of fussiness. He'd definitely fussier than he was, but he's still pretty content most of the time.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Frustration

Now we're in May, and still no riding. It's one thing not to be riding when the weather is crummy, but it's much more frustrating when it's nice out...

On the other hand, Sarah and I have discussed that even if I wasn't hurt, with the new baby, I'd probably still be frustrated because I still wouldn't be able to ride as much as I wanted to. Or maybe I'd be sick by now after having run myself into the ground.

Basically, the doctor confirmed yesterday that I don't have any "structural" issues with my knee. I would have been surprised, but it's gone on long enough that I wanted to start checking other things off the list.

While I was waiting around in the office, I started thinking about why I am so frustrated. Certainly, part of it is not being able to ride, and knowing that my mountain bike season is slipping away. But I think the bigger part of it is that I made a conscious effort to be careful about training to avoid injury this year, and I still got hurt. In hindsight, in some ways, I wasn't careful enough. I think I recognize those issues now and can fix them in the future. In my defense though, the onset of this injury was very different than any of my past injuries. It never really hurt on the bike, it just got a little tight at times. It wasn't until I got off the bike that I experienced real pain, and by then, it was probably too late. Anyway, I need to try to not beat myself up about that.

So, I've mostly been resting my knee, just keeping up with a little light activity. I'm also trying to keep my leg mostly straight while I'm sitting at work. That has helped a lot. So, it's actually feeling pretty good right now, but I can tell it's still not right.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Setback

So, it's been a little while since I posted. Last week was going well, for a while. My knee felt very good early in the week and I was starting to pedal just a little harder (like, easing it up to 13mph...). Bad idea. The knee pain is back, and maybe even a little worse than before.

Between the re-emergence of pain, and, like I wrote before, the fact that this injury seems so different than others I've had, I'm headed to the doctor this week. I'm not optimistic that I'll get much good information, but I'm hoping he can at least help me rule some things out.

Monday, April 26, 2010

When in doubt...

"When in doubt, it's never a bad idea to train like a fighter."

I read that somewhere and thought it was cool, and it sort of leads into my post.

So, my knee feels basically back to normal now. That is, I don't have any pain / discomfort doing anything anymore. Of course, I know it's still not back to normal yet, so I'll have to continue to be careful with it for a while. At least I can start the process of ramping back up to a normal training level.

I rode Saturday and this morning (4:30am wake up time again! It's going reasonably well so far, but it is pretty darn early.) and felt good on the bike both times. I'm still riding in a very easy gear, and I'll probably stay there for the rest of this week, just to be sure. Hopefully I've learned all of the right lessons from this injury; clearly I missed at least one last year.


I did a bodyweight upper body and core session yesterday (I'm not going to do any leg strength work, except rehab-type exercises for a while). I finished it off with a few rounds of shadow boxing. I tried shadow boxing a few years ago and I guess I just didn't "get it". I didn't find it particularly interesting or effective at the time. After reading an article that Ross posted, I decided to try it again. This time, I did it in front of one of the doorwalls in my basement. Since it was dark outside, I could see my reflection in the mirror pretty clearly. That made it a lot more fun! Per the article, I also tried to really keep moving the whole time, which made it more effective. I was a little surprised at how tired it made my legs yesterday, but I guess I shouldn't have been, I've hardly been working them for a month or so.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Breakthrough!

The knee wasn't as great as I'd hoped for yesterday, but still not too bad. I had a funny feeling before I went to bed though that I was on the verge of a breakthrough. I got up early this morning and rode on the trainer (more on that in a minute), and, sure enough, the knee felt really good. It has been great all morning too!

This injury has been strange for me. In the past, when I've had problems, my knees would hurt while riding (or doing other activity), but they would stop hurting when I stopped moving. With this one, it feels better to do activity, and it gets achey when I don't move for long enough. It's also taken me much longer to get to the no-pain stage this time; hopefully, I've made it now though.

I've decided that, for the time being, I probably need to get my workout in before work instead of after. Everybody else is going to bed earlier than me now, so I tend to wake them up when I'm getting ready for bed. Waking a sleepy mom and baby is definitely a bad move! It means a really early wakeup time (4:30am today) for me, but I think I can make it to the basement without waking anyone else up. Then I can go to bed (early) at about the same time as everyone else. After one day, it seems to be working fine, but the first day is always easy...

Also, since I'm sure people are dying to know, my saddle sore is also much better. That's good, because riding easy on a stationary trainer is pretty miserable with a saddle sore.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Give Me a Break!

Seriously, how do you get a saddle sore when you're riding as little as I am? Actually, I know the answer, but c'mon, give me a break! Hopefully it will clear up quickly.

The knee is feeling really good again today. I'm going to do another super-easy ride tonight and see how it goes. I think I'm getting closer...

Probably a little more sleep would go a long way to resolving my knee issue, but that's just not going to happen. The little one has actually been sleeping really well at night, but the older one has been getting up early. She was up at 5am today and ready to go! Dad wasn't quite as ready to go but I managed to get the job done.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mixed Results

I had some mixed progress with my knee over the weekend. At the end of last week, it had been feeling quite good, but still not perfect. On Saturday morning, I mowed the lawn for the first time this year. It was pretty cold on Saturday; cold enough that it was snowing a little while I mowed! Between that activity and the cold, it was enough to make my knee pretty sore for the rest of the day.


On Sunday, the knee was much better again. I rode the trainer briefly Sunday night at a super-easy pace. Once again, the knee felt fine on the bike.


Today, it actually feels really good; almost perfect, but not quite. If I can string together a few days like this, I'll think about riding a bit more. Otherwise, I just need to be patient. The only thing you get by rushing is a chance to start over again...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Revenge

The knee is definitely getting better. I still get some occasional soreness, but it's mostly all gone now. I'm back doing some super-easy rides on the bike. Generally, I feel better after I'm done riding than I did when I started, so that's a good sign. Still, it will probably be a while before I can get back to proper training.

I went back through my training log to try to figure out why I've had problems the past two years in the Spring. I think the answer is that I didn't ride enough over the Winter. Here are my average bike hours for January and February over the past several years:

2006 - 3.4 hrs/week
2007 - 2.8
2008 - 2.1
2009 - 1.2 (injured in March)
2010 - 1.5 (injured in March)

So, for next year, I'm going to try to average about 3 hours per week (riding) over the Winter. The change from 2008 to 2009 was basically that I added more cross-training at the expense of riding. I think this means that I'm relatively strong when I start riding more in March, but the cycling-specific muscle/tendon strength is not there which leaves me vulnerable to injury. I would still prefer not to ride any more than I have to in Jan-Feb though.


Last night, I spent some time working on cleaning up a tree that had fallen in my backyard. There's a huge vine in that area of the yard that knocked it down. So, as part of my cleanup, I'm also trying to kill and clear out this vine. I thought I had found the root over the Winter, but Sarah found a different (and much bigger) root. When I cut through it last night, a bunch of water started dripping, almost pouring, out. I found it very satisfying...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Not So Fast!

Well, it seems like I was a little too quick to pronounce my knee healed (or, I was too quick to get back to pushing on the pedals). It never really bothered me on the bike, but it does bother me off the bike, and it started getting a little worse again. So, for most of this week I haven't done much exercise, just lots of stretching and icing. That seems to have made things feel much better. This time, I'll wait until I get to zero pain before resuming training; otherwise, I probably just get to start over again.

It would have been tough to do much training this week anyway. Nathan has been pretty easy so far (knock on wood), but it's still been a tiring week taking care of two kids. I'm sort of looking forward to going back to work tomorrow to get back to a normal routine.

I took Cora to the Rhino Training Race at Waterford Hills yesterday; we watched the "B" race. Even though it was a cool, windy day, she had a good time. At one point I commented that the race was a little boring; she said, "This race is fine."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Short Ride with Cora

So, I asked Cora if she wanted to go for a bike ride on Monday night. "Yeah! We can go fast! Go ride bikes!" Cool. I got ready and got Cora ready. I told Sarah that we'd ride for as long as Cora wanted, then come back. I figured it would be at least 15-20 minutes, like we'd done last week. Certainly not a great ride for me, but I thought it would be good to at least ride a little. Besides, it's fun to pull Cora around.

I had made it only to the end of the driveway when I heard, "Go back home!" I asked if she was sure, and did a couple laps in the driveway. Nothing doing. "Go home! Go home!" OK. Sarah was surprised to see us again so soon.

She told me to go ahead and ride for a little while anyway. So I rode about 40 minutes; still not great, but it was good to get out. I popped over to Waterford Oaks and got a little dirt under my tires.

Monday, April 05, 2010

New Addition

Well, after teasing us for a few days, my son Nathan decided to arrive on Saturday. Everything went pretty well. Sarah opted for a more natural birth this time around and really did great. Us bike racers like to talk about pain, but I think a bike race is nothing compared to labor.

So far, my son has been a great sleeper; even better than my daughter, who was also very good. But, it's only been a few days, so we'll see what happens.

A few pictures...

I'm home for the week; hopefully I can get in a little training. So far, I haven't done anything except stretch and sleep. Maybe I'll pull Cora around in the bike trailer a little bit this afternoon...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back in Business

Still waiting for the new baby... should be any day now.


I seem to have nursed my knee back to health quickly, although I'll still take it kind of easy for a while. Mostly I rested, stretched and iced. I got back on the bike last night for a relatively short spin and everything felt pretty good. I didn't have any discomfort later in the night or this morning, so that's a good sign. The weather is supposed to get nice this week; I told Sarah that if it gets over 70F, I'm going to go ride outside.


There was a nice article at Cyclocross Magazine recently. Sort of nicely sums up why we race and train.


My Dad raced Barry-Roubaix this weekend. (Picture here.) Unfortunately, he had a crash just a few miles in and ended up breaking his arm. He didn't know it, so he finished the race! Riding for 20-some miles on gravel roads with a broken arm sounds pretty rough to me... Anyway, so he's in a cast up past his elbow now. So, he'll still be in a cast for the inevitable pictures when my son is born; I'm looking forward to telling that story. ("See your grandpa's cast? He broke his arm in a bike race.")

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hill Ball

Still nursing a sore knee today. I had thought about riding a bit today, but I decided against it. Lots of stretching and icing today.

I was a little bummed about not being able to ride, especially since some of my peers are racing at Waterford and Barry-Roubaix today. It's been a sunny day, so I decided to get outside and play "hill ball" (I just invented it today). Hill ball goes like this: take a medicine ball and chuck it up a hill for a couple minutes, rest, and repeat. I decided to throw it up the hill so I didn't have to chase after it (easy on the knee that way). Although, as it turned out, catching a 12lb medicine ball rolling at full speed wasn't always so easy. Anyway, it was fun, hard, nice to get outside, and I felt better afterward.

Maybe if this whole bike-racing thing doesn't work out, I can take up throwing stuff... probably not...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Knees, Karma

So, I did something last weekend to aggravate my knee. I'm hoping it was some new off-the-bike movements I was working on. I'm going to stop doing them, and we'll see what happens. I've been pretty careful about ramping things up on the bike this year, so I'll be disappointed if I hurt myself doing something off it.

I've been practicing my Gene drills pretty diligently. I'm getting excited to ride out on the trails and see how much I've improved. Tonight, I got a little bound up in my switchback drill; because I ended up leaned over so much, my foot closest to the ground came out of the pedal, and then I was able to pop my other foot out and run out of the crash. I started thinking about how great I was and everything,, and then I finished my practice.

So, I picked up my cones to go back in, hopped back on my bike (with the front tire in the soft grass), clipped one foot in, and went nowhere... then I tipped over in slow-motion. Nice. Karma strikes back... at least I fell in the grass instead of the driveway.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sushi Rice Bars

I rode the trainer for two hours today, which is pretty close to my limit for trainer time. The weather was cold and crappy today, so I wasn't at all tempted to go out. I'm still healthy, so the plan to not ride outside until the baby is born is working so far...

I watched the movie Pro while I was riding. It had been a while since I'd watched it; still one of my favorites. I get something different out of it every time.
I also made a batch of sushi rice bars today. I started making these last year, just to get a little more variety into the food I eat when I'm out riding, and they've always been pretty good. I think this batch is my best one yet though. They're also considerably less expensive than commercial energy bars, although probably not as calorie-dense.


(A full pan. It tastes better than it looks...)

The recipe can be found here. I've always made them with prosciutto rather than bacon. I found that it helps to cut the prosciutto up into really small pieces; you need a sharp knife for this. Also, it seems to help to put the prosciutto in with the eggs before they're quite done cooking.

(A bar, unwrapped. They stay together pretty well.)

The only downside to these bars is that you can't expect them to keep as well as a commercial energy bar. If you take a couple out with you on a Summer day, you need to eat them all, or throw away what you don't eat, because they won't be good later. Also, they don't last more than a couple weeks in the fridge (Sarah would no doubt claim they shouldn't last that long either!). I'm freezing half of them this time, so we'll see how that works out.


(Wrapped up and ready to go!)