Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Highlight Film

Sarah and I were talking about how quickly 2011 has gone by last night. She asked what my highlights were. I joked that I would need a highlight film to cover it all. Then I really started thinking about it, and I probably really would! I could probably easily come up with at least 50 highlights for the year: great bike rides, cool moments with the kids, accomplishments at work, fun trips... I could go on for a long time...

Thinking back about all the things I've done does sort of answer the question about why the year has gone by so fast. I wouldn't trade it for something else though. Hopefully it's a sign of life well-lived.

I'm looking forward to next year too. I'm not sure how, but I think it will be even better!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Highland Snow Ride

So, back to training, more-or-less. I'd planned to start easing back into riding a couple weeks ago, but things were just too busy for me to make time for it (in December anyway).

Yesterday, I was down and out with the stomach bug that has been going around our family, but today I felt normal again. So, I dusted off my singlespeed (with nice wide tires) and took it out to Highland for a little ride through the snow.

We don't have a whole lot of snow, and, on the trail, it was pretty crunchy, so I really never had much trouble with traction. What I did have trouble with was getting up all those steep little hills! My gearing was way too hard... the crunchy snow made it worse, but I probably would have had some trouble even in the summer. I ended up walking... a lot!

Anyway, I still had fun. I worked hard enough that I stayed reasonably warm, and the downhills were fun. It was good to get out and ride for a while.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stony Creek - Not Racing

I found some old posts that I'd written but never posted. I'll do something more current soon...


The Stony Creek cyclocross race was this past weekend. Temperatures were reasonably warm, almost 60F, but the wind was blowing so hard off of the lake that it still felt cold.



I knew once I started warming up that I was in for a long day. My legs felt dead any time I put in a hard effort. I'd been fighting a cold off all week, but I rode a little on Friday and Saturday and felt OK, so I thought I would be OK for the race. Apparently not.



It was really too bad, with Iceman being over and the USGP in Louisville this weekend, the turnout for the race was light. We only had 20 racers start (compared to the 40-50 we had in Ann Arbor). If not for the wind, the course probably would have suited me too. I thought I had a decent shot at the podium. As for the wind, it was brutal. Even going slightly downhill, you really had to grind it out just to push through the wind.



Anyway, as for the race, I lined up in the front row and got an OK start. I was in the front group of 5 or so but not on the front in the wind. It didn't last long though. I slipped back several spots by the end of the first lap and then a few more on subsequent laps. My legs felt terrible the whole time and it hardly seemed like I was really "racing".



Once again the course went along the beach. In my warmup, I thought the beach was going to be partially rideable, but it got churned up a lot in the C race and then I decided it probably wasn't. There were a couple guys riding it during the race, but I didn't attempt it. It seemed like I lost a lot of ground every lap on the beach, even against guys that were also running the whole thing. I'm not sure what to make of that.



Anyway, I ended up finishing 9th, a result I'd normally be reasonably happy with, but I'd expected a lot more. That's racing I guess. Two more races to go this year. Hopefully I can get feeling better and have some good rides.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Epic

For most of the summer I'd been thinking about a new mountain bike. After the Big-M race, I decided that I probably would have been faster on a 29er. Somewhere else, I read the comment that if you're still riding a 26" hardtail, you're probably at a disadvantage compared to a 29er or 26" full-suspension bike.

So, this Fall, I started shopping around, and I eventually decided to get a Specialized Epic 29er. I had Kinetic Systems build it from the frame up, so I could get what I wanted. I didn't really like the standard Specialized 29er builds. It took a little while, but I finally picked it up last Friday.



I've only ridden it once so far, but it's a really nice bike. I think I'm going to like it, and that it will eventually help go a little faster.

A few of impressions:
- I don't seem to have the suspension set up quite right. It seemed like the fork was diving too much. Maybe the fork is too soft, or maybe the rear is rebounding too fast? I think it will take some experimentation.

- The Brain seems to do what it's supposed to. When I was sitting and pedaling, I couldn't feel anything moving. But going downhills, off drops, etc, I could feel the suspension working.

- The rear suspension wasn't quite what I expected; granted, it may not be set up correctly yet. At times, it seemed more harsh than I expected. On the other hand, landing from drops was super soft, so that was cool. I also must have bottomed it out at least once, but I didn't feel it.



- This bike has XT hydraulic brakes (with heat sinks on the pads, hah!). They're really nice. Good power and good modulation.



- As for the 29er hype, I did feel like the bike kept its momentum over rough terrain faster. There's a little rock garden at Pontiac Lake, and this bike definitely rolled through it faster than my old one. For some reason, technical climbing also seemed better.

- More 29er stuff: the bike definitely handles differently than my 26" wheel bike. I'm going to have to relearn what steering / leaning inputs I need to make to get the bike to turn the way I want. I didn't feel confident turning at higher speeds. I think that's just going to be a matter of getting ride time on it though.

It will be fun to dial the bike in and get more confident on it!

Iceman

Better late than never...

Pretty much ever since I started riding and racing mountain bikes, I've heard about Iceman. Over the years, people kept asking if I'd done it, and then were surprised that I hadn't. So, this year, I decided that I would give it a shot, if, for no other reason, than to say that I'd done it.
First challenge, get in to the race. So, back in March, I dutifully noted the registration opening time, refreshed my browser like crazy, dealt with the inevitable server crash, and eventually got in. Then, wait until November...

Sarah and I left for Traverse City on Friday, leaving the kids with Grandma. I did a little "opener" workout on the trainer Friday morning. It was kind of an experiment, after I noted how much better I raced Sunday than Saturday at Vet's Park.

I knew that the race was big, and that there would be a lot of racers, but it wasn't until we went to pick up the race packet that it really sunk in. We got to the hotel around 3pm (packet pickup was open from noon until 9pm), and I didn't expect that there would be too many people there. Wrong! The parking lot was packed; almost all the cars had bikes hanging off of them. We were lucky to get a spot.

At dinner that night, the restaurant was busy, full of bike-racer-looking types. Same story at breakfast the next morning. Cars driving around Traverse City had bikes, most with number plates for the race. Like some kind of parallel universe where everyone is a bike racer. Crazy...



Since I hadn't done the race before, I was seeded in Wave 21, starting almost an hour or so after many of my peers. I really had no expectations for the race; just try to have a good ride and pass as many people as I could. I decided that I should get a head start by lining up at the front of my wave. The guys at the line next to me were pretty nice. One told me not to get too carried away near the finish, when it seems like you're close but you still have another mile or two to go. The other guy next to me was from Tennessee; he was disappointed that it was colder and snowing. I told him that racing in the cold and snow wasn't as much fun as it sounded.



At the gun, a group of 5-10 of us went off the front. I tucked into the draft for a little while, but eventually the guy in front (one of the few I saw on a 'cross bike) didn't want to pull any more and started slowing down, so I led our wave onto the dirt. Having never raced or ridden the course, I was a little nervous about being first, but the course was well-marked. After a couple minutes of me on the front, a few other guys came around and took the lead. After a couple miles, we started running into the slower people from the wave in front of us, and then I sort of lost track of who started with me.

The first part of the race was pretty flat and fast. I was able to pass a lot of people on the two-track, and even some on the wider singletrack. I did get stuck behind people on most of the narrow singletrack, but I just viewed those as rest breaks. I was a little surprised at how relaxed everyone was about the whole passing thing. I don't usually find people to be rude in normal XC races, but there is definitely a little more tension / intensity that just wasn't there in this race. Maybe it had to do with starting so far back.

Anyway, I felt like I was flying through the first half to 2/3rds of the race. I thought I stood a good chance of breaking two hours (I had thought I might finish around 2:15). Then we started hitting the hills. The last bit of the race was quite hilly, and they eventually knocked some of the snap out of me. So, I lost some pace, and finished in 2:05. Still, quite a bit better than I thought I would do.

The finish line was pretty crazy. Again, I somehow underestimated the number of people that would be there. Sarah also underestimated how long it would take her to get there, so she missed my finish (of course, I also told her I'd be finishing about 10 minutes later than I did). It took us a while to find each other too.

Anyway, it turned out to be a pretty fun race and fun weekend, so I think I'll probably be back next year. It was also most likely my last race on my Yeti... more on that later...



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fighting Off a Bug

I've been fighting off a bug since I've gotten back from Iceman. Sarah and the kids seem a little sick too. Hopefully I'll be feeling good enough to race this weekend, although I doubt I'll go well now.

I also had to "hide" our leftover Halloween candy in the freezer in the garage this week. That should keep me out of it until the season is over...

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Vet's Park 2011

So, Veteran's Park, 2011... I wasn't really sure what to expect for this race. In past years, I've liked the courses there and have done reasonably well. This year, I've gotten it in my head that I'm a bit better on courses where I can settle into a steady rhythm, but I know Vet's Park is usually not like that. I'm really trying to fight that type of thinking though, it can be self-defeating when you have to race at a course that you've decided doesn't suit you.



Anyway, so the course on Saturday was pretty tough. There was a lot of climbing and not too many places to get into a good rhythm or get a little rest. My legs never felt particularly good, but they didn't feel bad either.



I got to the line a little later than I would have liked and ended up starting in the 4th row. I didn't have a good start anyway; it just seemed like I couldn't get going relative to everyone else. I then compounded my bad start at the steep switchback climb. I knew I could climb it, but a lot of people were running it, and those that were riding were weaving everywhere. I got chopped and had to get off and run... more lost time. It seemed like I was also a little impatient, I kept getting too close to the guys in front of me and rubbing wheels. Usually, it wasn't a problem, but at least once, my wheel got turned when I did that and it cost me some time.



All in all on Saturday, it just seemed like I didn't have the legs and I made lots of little mistakes that cost me time. I wasn't too happy with my 13th place (out of about 40).



Sunday was a different story though. I don't know if it was because my family came to the race, or that I'd opened up my legs by riding on Saturday or what, but I knew I was going to ride well as soon as I started warming up. The course was a little faster, less climbing anyway, but most of the climbs and corners were muddy. I ended up switching from my Grifos to my Fangos during my warmup, thinking that the Fangos would give me better grip on some of the off-camber sections.



I lined up in the third row, but this time, I had a great start. The field sort of folded into the center of the course at the start, so I had a clear lane to go to the front. I was in the top 5-10 by the first corner and started working my up. I was aware that I was probably going too hard, but I felt so good that I thought I shouldn't slow down. When we hit the first long climb, some of the other guys bobbled in the mud; I didn't and I found myself in 2nd place. I knew the 1st place guy was probably going much too fast for me, so I didn't attempt to catch him.



I knew at least a few guys would be coming back around me, and they gradually did. Still, I rode a good chunk of the race in about 5th place. For the most part, I didn't have too much trouble with the mud, and I thought it made the course pretty fun to ride. I did make one consistent mistake though, I took much too long getting going again after the runup. It was mostly a technique problem where I wasn't getting on my bike high enough on the course; it cost me some time on every lap.



In the later laps, I started to fade a little, but so did some of the other guys. I'd just worked my way back up to the 8th place guy with two laps to go when I slid out on an off-camber corner and crashed. It really surprised me, since I hadn't had any indication of trouble on the corner the whole race. Anyway, it took me a while to get back on my pace after that and another rider went around me.



So, I ended up finishing 10th out of 45, but I was really happy with how I rode. My legs felt good and I made fewer mistakes. I feel like I can probably still sneak onto the podium (top 5) this year. To do it though, I will need to ride pretty flawlessly from a technical standpoint. I don't think I'm fit enough compared to the top guys to make up for very many mistakes. We'll see...

Monday, November 07, 2011

Falling Off Again?

I'm way behind on my blogging... I started this post a couple weeks ago. Then I'll write about Vet's Park, then Iceman...



I'm a little worried that I'm falling off again, like I did in 2009. Once again, my first couple 'cross races went well, but the last one didn't, and I really haven't felt good riding lately. I think maybe I've got it figured out this time...



First, I've definitely been under too much stress, both at work and home. I think I'm doing a good job trying to manage it, but it does have a big impact on training and recovery.



Second, I think I've kind of reached a point of "staleness" from too much anaerobic training. I've been reading some stuff about Arthur Lydiard lately. Really, his coaching philosophies aren't so different than others I've read, but he makes a point that you reach your max anaerobic potential after about 4 weeks of hard anaerobic training. If you continue to perform a high volume of anaerobic training beyond that time, you actually start to get worse (instead you should move into a lower-volume sharpening / peaking phase of training). He also comments that most athletes know when they've had enough heavy anaerobic training.



So, I think that's where I am. I probably should have backed off from the higher volume anaerobic stuff a couple weeks ago, particularly in light of my off-bike stress. I eventually recognized the need to rest in 2009 also, but it was way too late. I think I was also doing the wrong kind of workouts when I was riding in 2009. So, I'll try to rest a bit more and keep the workouts hard but brief, and see if I can regain some form for the end of the season.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Linden CX

Last weekend's cyclocross race in Linden was preceded by a super-stressful week at work. Sarah also left for Florida on Saturday morning, so I was watching both kids plus our dog, plus my in-laws' 3 dogs! We got a baby-sitter for the race, but still, it was kind of a crazy weekend.

My plan was to train through this race. So, my legs were already a little cooked before I started Sunday. The course had a little bit of everything: bumpy flat fields, fast "technical" sections, slow technical sections, and a few hills. It was fun though.

I got to the start of the "B" race early this week, so I got a second-row start, basically top 10. I didn't feel so hot at the start and got passed by more guys than I would have liked.

My performance seemed to vary with the terrain. When it was fast and flat, even in the wooded section, I felt like I was riding pretty well. In the tighter wooded section, I really struggled though. I had trouble getting around the tight 180's, and it seemed like I didn't accelerate out of the corners fast enough. On the 3rd lap, I also crashed (and dropped my chain) coming out of one of those corners. I also felt a little slow climbing all the hills.

All in all, it wasn't such a great performance.

After a little reflection, I decided to go ahead and also do the Masters 35+ race. My idea was to get a little more hard riding in and at least figure out what I was doing wrong in the wooded 180 section.

The field was much smaller, and the start was a little slower than the B race. I didn't feel too bad for the first couple laps, but I did crash pretty hard in the wooded section. I figured out part of what I was doing wrong in the tight 180's; basically I needed to put a little more weight on the front end of the bike.

After a few laps, I started to feel pretty bad. I'd figured out what I wanted to figure out, so I decided to call it a day.


So, while my race results weren't stellar, it was a useful race day for me. I figured out my handling problem, and, after some mental review, figured out some other places where I was consistently losing time.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Munson CX

It's nice to be racing. I haven't had any big injuries this year (knock on wood), my fitness is coming around. Life is good...

I was a little worried about how the race would go this weekend. I took Sarah to the Toby Keith concert on Friday night for her birthday. It was outside, in the cold and rain. We brought a tarp and some blankets, so we stayed reasonably warm and dry. I thought I might end up getting sick from being out there like that, but I didn't.

I got to the race plenty early on Saturday and got in a few warmup laps in the daylight. I tried to pay particular attention to any bumps and dips, since, once it got dark, I knew I wouldn't be able to see them. (As it was, there was one rough section that I didn't note, and it bucked me around for the first few laps until I finally remembered it.) The course was pretty typical for a night race at Munson. Just one time riding up the hill, one time running, and the rest was all flat.

One of the things I'd wanted to work on this year was warming up thoroughly before cold races. Since there aren't great roads to warm up on around the park (especially in the dark!), I brought my trainer. I really liked how well it worked! My legs felt really loose and ready to go before the race.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake and misjudged how early I needed to get to the line to get a decent starting spot. I ended up getting there with over 5 minutes to go, but most of the field was already lined up. I started right near the back. Doh!

At the whistle, I got a good start, and I started moving up immediately. Racing with the huge fields in Baltimore definitely helped me out. I was very comfortable jumping into whatever gaps opened and working my way up. After the second lap, I think I'd passed the majority of people I was going to easily pass. The rest would require some more serious work!

I felt pretty solid for most of the race. It seemed like I was just crushing people riding up the hill, but on the flatter sections (which was most of the course), I had more trouble. Still, much like at Plaster Creek, I seemed to be able to find a gear that I could "get on top of" in the flat parts. It just wasn't quite enough to get up to the leaders.

I had a good battle with a couple Cycletherapy guys near the end. We eventually shed one, but I ended up losing a sprint to the other. He set it up by beating me up the run-up (I didn't feel good running the whole race). I knew you probably had to be in front through the last few corners to win a sprint finish, since the finishing straight was pretty short. I gave the sprint a good go, but I wasn't able to go around.

I ended up finishing 7th out of a field of almost 40 guys. I think I probably could have been top 5 if I'd started near the front. I'll get to the line earlier next time...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Charm City CX

I had originally planned for my out-of-state cyclocross trip to be to the Madison USGP. I made a late decision to switch the trip to Charm City Cross in Baltimore, so I could also visit my brother.

In the week leading up to the race, I picked up a cold from the kids. I went to bed super-early every night, and by the time I left on Friday, I felt more-or-less OK.

I drove straight to the park on Friday, thinking that, by Friday evening, surely the course would be set up. I was also thinking it would be nice to spin the legs a bit after the long car ride. I found the park just fine, but I didn't see any course tape, barriers, etc. What's going on? Finally, I got out of the car and started walking around; that's when I spotted an orange spray-painted line winding around the park. After following it for a while, I was pretty sure that this was the course. It did feel good to ride a bit, but with only a general idea of where the course would go, the pre-ride wasn't so useful. I still can't believe they set the whole thing up before the first race the next morning.

I decided to do the 2/3/4 ("B") race for this weekend. It turns out that this was the last race of the day. By the time I rode the course on Saturday, almost every corner was muddy/slick from so many riders going over it. There were also a few deep, sticky mud pits. The day was cold, overcast and spitting rain.

I was called up 80th in a field of ~125 riders. The first few laps were crazy with that many guys! We went through almost every corner 3-4 wide. If you let up just a little, a couple guys would get by. It seemed like I was faster than many of the guys around me at the start, but I had a lot of trouble making passes. I was a little too tentative and just not used to so many people.

Once things spread out a little, I found that I was definitely handling my bike better than the guys around me. In particular, I was really happy with how I rode the muddy corners. I was a little surprised at how well I did, since we don't typically get conditions like that in Michigan. Unfortuntely, from a fitness standpoint, I just didn't measure up. I don't know if it was from my cold, the car ride, or that the other guys were just that fast, but any time we got to a spot where I just needed to put the power down, I struggled. I ended up finishing where I started, 80th. Kind of a disappointing result.



For day 2, I vowed to be more aggressive at the start. I got a similar call-up (84th), so I figured I'd get in plenty of passing practice. I also thought I might physically feel a little better. The course on the second day was drier and the corners were more open; basically, faster conditions. The weather was also much nicer.

There was one corner where some hecklers had camped out. They had a little dry-erase board sign that they used to good effect. During the women's pro race, the sign read "Single Men ->". During the warmup for my race, they'd written "Attack the warmup!". After a couple laps, they started referring to me as "Sea Bass". I thought it was cool...

It seemed like the field strung out faster on the second day. There was really only a lot of traffic on the first lap. I did physically feel better, but I made some bad mistakes. On the first lap, I didn't realize we'd be going through some sandpits, so that surprised me. (They removed the sandpits for the Pro races, and, on the first day, they didn't put them back in for our race. On the second day, they did!) I rode through the first stretch of sand, then decided to run the second stretch. I had an awkward dismount, lost my balance and stepped on the spokes of my front wheel. Doh! I didn't mess it up to the point where it was rubbing, so I just kept going.

At the start of the third lap, I made my final mistake. The barriers were set up on a slight downhill, and the ground in front was a little bumpy. Should have been no big deal; it's almost exactly how I set up my practice barrier at home. I coasted in, stepped through, then couldn't get my left foot out of the pedal. Crash! I hit the barrier with my lower legs and my bike. Somehow I didn't flip over it. The barrier gave a little, but it still REALLY hurt! My legs were scraped, but they otherwise looked OK, so I got back on my bike. It was incredibly painful to pedal, but I thought if I kept going it might start feeling better. It didn't, and I couldn't pedal hard at all, so after a minute or two, I stopped. DNF...



After the race, I could assess the damage a little better. My left knee was pretty badly bruised, and I was scraped and bruised just below my right knee. My front wheel was out of true, but my bike was otherwise OK. I was pretty worried at first that I'd just ended my season with a bone bruise like I did last year, but, by that Wednesday, I was back on the bike and riding hard with no problem.

So, even though my race results were pretty rough, I still had a good time. It was really cool to be in such a big race and with such a quality field. I'm thinking I will go back next year. Maybe try to step up my game a little and get a better result.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Counting to 8

I made the trip over to Plaster Creek Park in Grand Rapids on Sunday to contest the first Kisscross race of the season. Particularly after my less-than-stellar practice race at the 'cross clinic on Saturday, I wanted to get one more training race in before I head to Baltimore next weekend for Charm City 'Cross.

The course was pretty fast and flowy. There were a few fun "roller coaster" turns where you just let the hill slow you down on the way up, and then you turn and bomb down the other side. There were also a few Kisscross oddities: a big spiral and a set of triple barriers. All said, it was a really fun course.

We had a pretty big "B" field: 46 racers in the B field, and 37 in the B-masters. They announced that we would be doing 8 laps ("count your own laps"... remember this), and then we were off.

I held back just a little at the start; I think going out too hard was part of my problem on Saturday. I ended up near the front, but this let John Osgood (one of the few racers I knew) build a decent gap. From then on, I rode pretty steady and picked riders off the whole way. I ended up riding most of the race with fellow Rhino Dan Gosen. At about the halfway point, we started lapping riders, and then it got really difficult to tell who you were racing.

For this race, I really wanted to focus on taking correct lines and being in the correct gear. The gearing thing is something I'm not always disciplined about. For the most part, it was fine, but there was a long 180 degree corner through a baseball infield that I really struggled with. I think I was making two mistakes: going in too fast, and taking a wider line, where the sand/gravel was a little deeper. Dan, and others, always seemed to erase whatever gap I'd built up in that one corner.

About halfway through (what I thought) was our second-to-last lap, I started looking around to see the gap to Osgood and who was in between us, to plan a bit for that last lap. The gap to John was pretty big, and I wasn't sure if the few guys between us were on the lead lap or not, but I didn't think so.

So, as we're riding through the start / finish line, Dan calls out "We're done". I said, "No, we have one more to go." I was so sure, and I still felt pretty good, so I could have definitely done another lap. I must have been convincing, because Dan and I kept going. (In hindsight, I remember seeing a few tags on the spindle already, but no one was standing there.) We went through a couple corners, then I saw John, sitting up and pedaling easy. Doh! Dan and I scooted back to the spindle (where there was now a line) and put our tags on. We crossed the line 2nd and 3rd, but were scored as 10th and 11th. Sorry Dan. (We did get a mention on the results page... "a few people had trouble counting laps...")

Photo of me...

Anyway, the race was a lot of fun and I have some confidence now heading into Charm City and the Tailwind series.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Cautiously Optimistic

I'm cautiously optimistic about the upcoming cyclocross season. It's been a long time since I've posted, but I've been getting in some good training. I've mostly been focusing on longer efforts to try to build up my threshold power.

I've been going to the Thursday night gravel road rides for the past couple weeks. I've been able to hang better than I expected. I'm still getting dropped by the really fast guys, but I seem to be doing well in that next group.

I had intended to do a couple late-season mountain bike races, but life has interfered a bit, so it looks like I'm done racing mountain bikes until Iceman. I'm planning to do the Kisscross race in Grand Rapids this weekend, and then I'm heading to Baltimore for Charm City the following weekend. I'll get some indication from those races, but I won't really see how I stack up against the local cyclocross competition until Munson on Oct 1.

I've been pretty motivated lately. Part of it is that I'm excited just to be racing 'cross. Part of it is also that my optimism hasn't been tempered by reality yet. Motivation is harder to come by when you're getting shelled every weekend... that's definitely been part of my problem with mountain bike races this year. I feel like I'm too fast for Sport, but not quite fast enough for Expert. I need to think about that for next year, or, just get faster!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Testing - Aug 2011

In light of my feelings about what's going on with my riding, I decided to do some trainer testing today. It's not the most fun thing, but it gets you some numbers to work with, which is good for us engineers!

The first test I did was a 5 minute critical power test. It was hard, but I crushed it compared to the test I did in March! I improved 14%! (That's the nice thing about testing infrequently, and comparing to an early Spring number.)

Then I did my 20 minute / LT field test. Doing it shortly after the CP5 test is a change to my typical test protocol, but my result wasn't so different. I had a good improvement here also, but not as much as I was hoping for.

The tests sort of confirmed what I've been feeling, that I can make good power over short periods, but I have trouble holding it. So, I'm going to try to focus on improving that over the next month and see how things go.

The other interesting thing I noticed in the 20 minute test was how I was using my gears. Since I can watch my speed / power on the trainer computer, I can see how my speed is influenced by gear selection. I find that I end up using a slightly harder gear on the trainer than I probably would on the road or trail. When I do switch to that easier gear, if my legs need a break, my speed drops off immediately and my heart rate starts climbing. I'd mentioned some time ago that I'd noticed my HR was getting lower for these tests, and I'm pretty sure that this gearing thing is why.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cross Practice - 2011

I did my first Tuesday night 'cross session at the track this week. We had kind of a small turnout, due to the threatening weather I think. Still, I was pretty encouraged about how things went. It seemed like my bike-handling has improved again from last year, and I had lots of punch out of corners, up hills, etc.

The not-so-encouraging thing was that I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to maintain that punch for very long. Pretty much also how my mountain biking has gone this year...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Big-M XC

I raced the Big-M XC race this weekend. I've never been there before, so I drove up Saturday to pre-ride. I have to say, I was a little disappointed with the course. It was almost totally non-technical; just the last big downhill required a little care. There was lots of climbing though, so it was tough physically.

I camped out with some other Rhinos on Saturday night, so that was pretty fun.

My class had a decent turnout for the race, 12 guys, including most of the usual East-side suspects. The first couple miles of the course were pretty flat, so the race was fast right from the gun. I did a good job hanging on to the pack for a while, but then I popped right before we got to the first long climb / false flat. In hindsight, I probably went a little too hard at the start, because it took me quite a while to recover from the effort. On the other hand, the hard start also let me drop one of the guys I beat, and I never saw him again.

I finally recovered a bit for the second lap, and the second and third laps went pretty well. I've been working on trying to maintain my momentum on the singletrack, and it seemed like I was doing that better.

My legs were feeling the effect of the climbs on the last lap though, and I was pretty cooked. Near the end of the lap, I saw a guy standing to the side of the trail sucking wind. I asked if he was OK and went by him (I didn't recognize him or check his number). He hopped on his bike and went by me. It wasn't until he had a bit of a gap that I wondered if he was in my class. I didn't have anything left to chase him, and at the finish, I saw he was in my class. Doh! So, he beat me by about 15s.

Anyway, I felt like I had a pretty decent race, and it was nice to beat a couple guys, even though I still finished at the back of the pack. It still seems like my weakness is just maintaining my power. I'm OK for the short bursty stuff and the climbs, but the longer efforts get to me.

For the first time I can remember, I also felt like I would have gone faster on a different bike. There weren't a lot of rough sections, but there was one section in particular that was mostly flat and had a bunch of roots. The roots were big enough that I felt like I had to do something (stand, unweight a bit, etc) to get over them without getting bucked around. When I was fresh, that wasn't a problem, but as the race wore on I was wishing the bike would just roll over that stuff faster. Supposedly, a 29er would do that, and I probably could have sat down and pedaled on a full-suspension bike. Since the mountain bike season is almost over, I probably won't do anything about it this year, but maybe next year...

Monday, August 08, 2011

Friday, August 05, 2011

Upswing

Seems like I might be back on the upswing. Work was still too crazy this week, but at least I started feeling better on my bike.

I went downstairs Wednesday night to ride the trainer after the kids went to bed, and found that I had a flat tire! Seriously, how do you get a flat tire on a bike that just sits on the trainer? (Answer, it was an old tube and it developed a hole next to the stem.) Anyway, after I fixed the flat, I had a surprisingly good ride. It makes me wonder if my tire was going down last week when I couldn't finish my trainer ride.

Last night I rode with the Rhinos at Holdridge. My legs felt surprisingly good again and I had a lot of fun. Some of the flat pedal technique I've been working on is definitely carrying over to the clipless pedals and I'm riding much better because of it. Life is much better for me when I feel decent on the bike...

I'm racing at Big-M this weekend. I've never been there before, so it should be interesting. People say that it's a hilly, non-technical course. In past years, I would say that this was good for me. This year, I'm not so sure.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Grinding Down

Well, last week was only slightly better than the previous week. I was reasonably motivated, but I felt pretty bad on my bike. I crashed twice going pretty fast on the mountain bike; it's been a while since I've had a big crash. Work has also been way too stressful.

I feel like my training has been just grinding me down and making me tired rather than helping me build up. So, I think some changes to the training plan are in order, at least until I can start recovering a little better.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Strange Week

Last week was strange. I had zero motivation to ride or train. It was supposed to be a rest week, so I guess that's OK, but it's never good to be feeling that way. Probably too much work stress. Finally, by Thursday night I felt sort of like riding. Unfortunately, it was also 100F+ outside, so I ended up riding the trainer. Not really my idea of a good time...

I did the Tree Farm Relay again on Saturday. It ended up being a weird race. It was really hot and humid most of the day. One of my teammates crashed and broke his collarbone early in the day. I didn't feel so great on my first lap; probably from not riding much during the week. My second lap went better though. It was nice to hang out with the Rhinos all day too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Flat Pedals

Last night, I rode real flat pedals with not-ideal shoes and shinguards for the first time. It was a really interesting experience.

First, I'm not as comfortable getting out of my clipless pedals as I thought. There were several technical sections that I rode faster because I knew I could instantly put a foot down. Even if you can get your foot out of a clipless pedal fast, it's still not as fast as with a flat pedal.

Second, I now really understand what it means to drive your weight into the pedals. When my feet would get a little light, I could feel them start to slip just a little, when they were heavy, no slipping. I'll be curious to see how this changes with better shoes. I think this will also change the way I ride clipped in, in a good way. With more weight on my feet, the bike seemed to handle much better.

The worst situation for me as far as my feet not staying on the pedals was when I was sitting and pedaling. I guess it's obvious, but any weight that's on the saddle is not on your feet, so they're more likely to slip.

Third, it will take some practice to get used to doing things on flats that I'd do without much thought clipped in. The main one I noticed was going off drops. I think my drop technique is pretty decent, but last night, as I approached the drop I'm thinking, "where will my bike go when the rear wheel takes off?". My physics-brain knows that my bike and my body will fall at the same rate, so it should be no problem. My survival-brain isn't so sure. I still went off the drop and was fine, but it wasn't as smooth as usual. After the ride, in the parking lot, I demonstrated to myself that I could, in fact, lift my rear wheel with the flat pedals.

Anyway, I had a really good time riding like that. I had some good moments where I was really flying, but also a few awkward ones. To be expected I guess. I doubt I will switch over to flat pedals full time, but I think I will try to ride with them quite a bit for a while. I can see how they will help me develop some better technique.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

If It Rains...

Had an interesting week last week. I felt pretty crummy on Wednesday and didn't expect much from my ride. As it turned out, I rode the trainer and had a really good workout. It took me a little while to get warmed up, but once I got going I felt good.

On Thursday, I was looking forward to my ride at Pontiac Lake the whole day. But once I got there, I never got feeling all that good. It just seemed like I was a little out of sync the whole time. Maybe some of it still has to do with integrating the changes I made from the Betterride camp .

Over the weekend, we drove up to Ludington for my cousin's wedding. I put road tires on my 'cross bike and rode that on Sunday. I'd sort of forgotten how many dirt roads are out there. I hit a few bad ones early in my ride. The problem with the dirt roads up there is that they can have sections of deep sand... road tires at 80psi just sink in.

Anyway, once I got back on the paved roads, I had a really nice ride. I found some good hills and good scenery. Lots of open farmland out there. I only hit one more bad sandy road... I almost pushed through it, but not quite. It felt like good cyclocross practice anyway.

On the way home from Ludington, Cora was pretty tired and just chatting / singing to herself. One of the phrases that popped up: "if it rains, take the bus." The kids are always listening...

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Line

I ended up getting in a fairly productive week of training last week. At least, I learned some things...

I tried to do some short intervals at PLRA on Thursday night. I've done longer ones there before and I've thought it worked OK. I found that short ones don't though. I just can't go hard enough on the trail to get the right training effect. So, I think I'll either save longer intervals for the trail, or just do shorter hard efforts as the trail dictates (ie- hammer up all the climbs, or flats, or whatever).

I went over to Lakeshore Park in Novi to ride and "practice" on Saturday. It was pretty hot, and it took me quite a while before I felt like doing anything but just riding. Eventually, I stopped and worked on some corners. I realized that in linked corners, where I should be compromising the first corner to take a good line through the second one, I don't. I take a normal line through the first one, then a crappy line through the second. I stopped at a few corners and worked on doing it the right way. It's amazing, without really even pedaling hard, how much more speed you carry by following the correct line. I also stopped and spent some time on the pump track. The surface isn't so great there, too gravely, but you can still get zipping around with good technique.

I started re-reading Skip Barber's Going Faster for its good discussion of the line when I got home...

I expected my dirt road ride on Sunday to go kind of badly. My legs never got feeling good on Saturday, so I didn't expect much for Sunday. I did get out pretty early in the morning before it got too hot, which helped. I ended up actually feeling really good. After I got warmed up, I did my usual harder efforts, and those felt good. Then I finished up at an easier pace to make the ride 2.5 hours. I definitely could have done more (and I will, this week).

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Training Again

I started up my training again this week. It's been a little bit of a shock to the system. I'm a bit sore from my strength workouts earlier this week.

I did a hard ride on the trainer last night. I didn't feel too bad, but I didn't feel too good either. I think I should come around pretty quickly though, I didn't take that much time off...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Betterride Camp - Michigan

Two years ago, I drove down to Richmond, VA to take a mountain bike skills camp. Since then, I've definitely improved a lot, but I feel like I could still get a lot better. When I saw that Betterride was offering a camp in metro-Detroit, I jumped on it.

In the end, I would say that the second camp was way better than the first. At the first camp, I learned enough that I got pretty good at the core elements in a controlled setting (ie- the parking lot), but I still went back to a lot of old habits on the trail. I definitely did improve on the trail between then and now, but maybe not as much as I had hoped. At this camp, I had the drills pretty well down in the parking lot (I did make some small, but significant, corrections). Where I really made a lot of progress this time was on the trail.

Some of the key things I learned:

- Get low, low, low. I did one ride with my saddle dropped, and I put my Gravity Dropper on for another ride. The difference in control is huge with that saddle out of the way. When I did the whole ride with the saddle dropped, I couldn't believe how fast I ripped through some of those corners (I still can't)!

- I need to change the way I practice. Like I said before, I got pretty good at the things that I was practicing, but I didn't really progress. So, I think I need to keep working on new things, and I also need to occasionally spend some time really practicing on the trail. If I mess up a corner, instead of just going on, I should go back and do it a few times and get it right.

- I'm a better rider than I give myself credit for.


So, the Gravity Dropper thing. For now, it's back on my bike. I used it a bit at the beginning of the year and some last year, but after several rides I took it off. The problem was that I was only using it 2-3 times per ride, and I didn't feel like that justified having it on. It also seemed like the transition between the low and high positions took too long; it wasn't the movement of the seatpost that was the problem, but the time it took for me to get ready to pedal in the proper gear. I worked on that aspect a little at the camp, and it got much better. Basically, I sort of "get" how to use the Gravity Dropper now. We'll see how it goes now when I'm back to riding on my own and pedaling a bit harder between technical sections.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Getting Hungry

I've been off the bike since the Ft Custer race, and I'm getting hungry to start riding again. That's a good thing...



Aside from getting a cold, I've had a good little break. I spent most of last weekend cleaning and staining the kids' swingset. Thanks to the crummy weather we've had this week, it's still not done! The riding lawn mower I just bought also has a problem, so I've had to deal with that.



I'm going to a Betterride camp this weekend. I probably wouldn't have gone this year, except this camp is local (unlike last time, when I went to Richmond!), so I felt like I couldn't pass it up.



Next week I'll resume my training. I'm going to change up my training plan a bit for the second half of the season. For the first half, I followed a program by James Wilson. From a strength training standpoint, I was completely satisfied with my progress. From a racing fitness standpoint, not so much. Near the end, I felt like I was going reasonably well, but it was pretty clear that my power was just not where it needed to be.



I'm going to keep James's strength workouts, but I'm going back to a riding plan that's a bit closer to what I've done it past years. The first step will be to re-build / expand my base...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mid-season Break

So, I decided to start my mid-season break this week. Originally, I'd planned to go a few more weeks before a break, but I've had nearly zero motivation to train since Ft Custer, so it seems like a good time. Turns out that both kids caught colds this week, so I may be fighting something off too.

I'm not sure about how I'm going to proceed when I resume my training. It seemed like things were starting to come together in the last month or so; on the other hand, even at Ft Custer I was still off the pace. I think missing so much riding last year due to injuries hurt me a lot more than I originally thought...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ft Custer TT - 2011

Or, how not to let a bad result ruin a good race...

I raced the Fort Custer TT this weekend for the first time. The weather was perfect for bike racing: sunny, maybe 65 degrees, minimal wind.

The guy that started with me took off like a shot and I never saw him again (he ended up 2nd in my class). I got surprised at the start of the race a little. We rode along a road for a while, which was fine, but when we dove into the singletrack, it was a piece of trail that I hadn't seen before. There wasn't anything difficult about it, but I was going fast enough that it would have been nice to know where I was going

Brad, Shawn and one other guy that started just behind me passed me early, but for most of the race, I felt really good, easily the best I've felt at a race this year. I was able to push hard on the pedals, I was riding well, no one else was passing me. I started thinking I might be doing pretty well in the race. At the end of the Amusement Park, I could see a couple guys creeping up on me, but I was able to maintain my gap over them for a long time.

It wasn't until about halfway through the Green loop (maybe about 10-15 minutes to go in the race?) that I started fading. My legs started getting tired and maybe I lost focus a little. A few guys got by me, and then a bunch right before we finished the singletrack. Still, I finished pretty strong, and it didn't seem like that many people had passed me, so I thought I'd done OK.

Then I checked the results. Last! Dammit! It sucks when you have a good race and get nothing to show for it. Goes to show how good the Expert field is though.

Crunching through the times later, I saw that I did improve relative to my peers from the time trials earlier this year. At least there's some hard evidence of improvement. Andrea also got a pretty good picture of me from early in the race. At least I look like a bike racer...



I'm not going to stay too down about the race. I felt really good and showed some measureable improvement. It was interesting that I'd say my weakness this time was just not being able to put down the power.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Highland, Finally...

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I've lived in Waterford for 7 years, but I've never ridden at Highland (about 15 minutes away)... until yesterday. I think, because there are no races there, I've never had a specific reason to go.

Anyway, I went yesterday and really enjoyed it. It's definitely a different type of mountain biking than you find on most of the other trails around here. The trail is almost always climbing or falling, and rarely does it go straight up or down, and often those ups and downs are narrow and full of rocks and roots. It was hard for me to find a rhythm at times, but it was fun.


Otherwise, my training has been going well. I never ended up getting strep throat, and I've had a bunch of good rides since my last post. My next race is at Ft Custer next weekend; I'm looking forward to it. My fitness should be the best it's been so far this year, but I don't know the trail at the Fort really well, so it will be interesting to see how I do.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Duckin' and Dodgin'

This week has been rough, as expected. I had to wake up early 3 out of the 5 weekdays this week. The kids and Sarah all came down with strep throat. I'm ready for the weekend!



Even though the weather has been crummy, I still got most of my training in. I called it a night early on Wednesday though. I just kind of ran out of gas near the end of my strength workout, and I decided not to finish it or go on and do my intervals. Given everything else going on, it seemed like a bad idea to try to push through it. I did a hard ride on the trainer last night, and everything felt pretty good once I got warmed up.



This weekend should be nice though. Hopefully everyone else gets feeling better, and I don't get sick!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Great Weekend!

I had a great weekend of training. I ended up riding at Stony with Sarah on Saturday. She rode much better than I expected. I did get a little nervous when she said her legs were burning after just a couple minutes of riding. I focused on my riding technique and rode hard in short bursts. Just being in a "non-training" mode helped me relax and I rode really well, and pretty fast!

I hit the dirt roads on Sunday and had a very enjoyable ride. I felt good the whole time, even though some of the roads were totally bombed out. I recovered well and ended up getting a lot of stuff done around the house too!

All of these good vibes make me a little nervous though. Typically, when I start feeling like this, it means that I'm about ready to get sick. The plan is for today to be an off day, and I'll try to get to bed early tonight. This week is shaping up to be busy, so I need to be careful. I saw this line in Joe Friel's blog: "When you're in great shape, you're only one workout away from losing it all."

60 Minutes: Tilford

Nice post from Steve Tilford, as usual, about the "60 Minutes" story last night. I didn't get a chance to watch it, I was putting the kids to bed. Just as well...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Brighton Stage Race - 2011

The 2011 Brighton Stage Race is now in the books. My result wasn't a whole lot better than it was when I last did the race in 2008, but my performance was much better.

I almost didn't go to the race on Saturday. It was raining pretty hard in Waterford, but by the time I got to Brighton, the rain had stopped and it didn't rain the rest of the day. Despite the rain, the trail was in decent shape for the time trial, but it was a little difficult for me to tell which corners would be slippery and which were firm. I rode just OK; I had to run up one hill after my rear tire spun on a wet root and I dabbed one other place when I messed up my line. I ended up off the pace for the Expert field, but I improved my time from 2008 by more than 2 minutes.

The short track race was in a slightly different location than it was for 2008. The grass course was pretty bumpy and soft. I knew that a lot of people would be riding 'cross bikes, but I thought I would be OK on my mountain bike. I was OK, but a 'cross bike probably would have been a better choice. I got off to a good start, but after a lap or so, I couldn't hold the pace and had to back off. After that, people kept gradually coming around me. Like I said, a 'cross bike would have helped, but it was mostly a fitness issue. I'm not sure if it was just a problem with threshold power (kind of a weakness of mine, particularly on a soft bumpy course) or if it was the volume of repeated hard accelerations.

Sarah and the kids came out to watch the short track race. It was cool to hear Cora yelling "Go Dad Go!".


It was rainy and cold again on Sunday, but I figured that since I raced on Saturday, I might as well go on Sunday too. Instead of clearing up though, it kept raining, hard. It was also pretty cold, about 42F by the time my race finished. We decided to shorten the Expert race from 4 laps to 3. For whatever reason, I'd been a bit worried about the distance, so I felt much more confident about doing 3 laps.

I had a decent start for me, and could immediately see that I was going to be competitive in the race. I passed a few guys on the first lap and was riding pretty well. I only had one problem on the first lap, when one of the faster guys bumped me a bit making a pass; that screwed things up for me and the next guy trying to pass.

I felt like I was going really well on the second lap. The trail was getting muddier, but I was riding well. A guy that was following me said, "you're much better than me on the technical stuff"; I don't think anyone's ever said that to me in a race. Definitely a sign of progress. I was passing more guys and had to hold myself back a bit to save something for the last lap. That's when things started going south. My brakes, which I'd noticed were fading a bit, really started to go. By the end of the lap, I could hardly slow down and my front brake was making a metal-on-metal sound. I stopped at the start/finish area, hoping I could just adjust the cable to fix it, but then I saw that the pads were almost completely worn down. I decided not to try to finish the race like that. So, another DNF at the Brighton XC. Unlike 2008 though, I felt really good about how my race was going on Sunday, so I can't get too down about a mechancial problem. I figure there's some karma at work here; a lot of times in a hard race I'll be thinking about getting a flat or something to put me out of my misery. So it figures that when I'm going pretty well, that's when I'll have a problem.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Looking for Fitness

Ah, it's been a long time since I've posted. The past couple weeks have really been a mixed bag...



Since the race at Pontiac Lake, I've been trying to get a handle on where my fitness is. The strange thing about the race was that while I felt kind of bad, I went about as fast as I did at the XC race last August. Without the bonk, I might have even been faster.



My training so far this year has been a mix of longer relatively easy rides and very short intervals (20s to 1.5 minutes). I haven't done much hard work at longer durations. So, I set about trying to do that a bit over the last two weeks.



The week following Pontiac Lake was really a good week of training for me. The weather kept me inside one night, and I did an interval session on the trainer (the Spinervals "No Slackers" DVD). That's one I do somewhat frequently during 'cross season, and it went surprisingly well.



That weekend I rode at Brighton to start getting ready for the stage race. It took me a bit longer than normal to get warmed up, but once I got going, I rode really well. I did a dirt road ride with the Rhinos on that Sunday, and I also felt really good.



This past week wasn't so good. For the first time this year, my knee felt a little funny (from mowing the lawn of all things!), so I had to back off the training a bit. Family stuff shortened some other planned training sessions during the week, and I didn't ride particularly well over the weekend. I went back to Brighton on Saturday; in addition to screwing up my nutrition for the ride, I also fell (going uphill!) and scraped up the knee that had been bothering me. The knee seemed OK for Sunday, but I bailed on my ride at PLRA after one lap because my back was bothering me (also strange, because lately, my back has been feeling basically perfect).



Oh well, you win some and you lose some. I was more careful about not twisting my knee while mowing this weekend, and my knee seems OK this time. The plan is to take it a bit easy this week and then do the stage race at Brighton this weekend!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pontiac Lake TT

I raced the Pontiac Lake TT on Saturday. It was actually the first time I've done the TT. When I first started racing mountain bikes, I was too intimidated to race at Pontiac Lake at all. Once I felt comfortable enough to race out there, it seemed like I was always hurt in the Spring or had just barely started training. Anyway, things fell into place this year and I raced.

I rode my bike to and from the race, since I live so close to the trail (about a 20 minute ride). Really not a big deal, but it seemed kind of hardcore. It was also a nice warmup.

The race itself was a bit strange for me. I got off to a good start and pushed pretty hard for a while before I settled in. From the technical riding standpoint, the race went really well. I was confident and relaxed; I didn't make any major bobbles. My fitness seemed really off though, it seemed like I couldn't quite do what I wanted. My seated pedaling didn't feel very strong, and I was uncomfortable standing and pedaling. My legs felt pretty tight by the end.

I did make a few mistakes though. One was that I didn't take in enough calories in the first part of the race. As a result, I bonked with about 15-20 minutes to go... not fun. It was also warmer than I expected, and I was really wishing I'd worn a short sleeve jersey instead of a long sleeved one. The bonking definitely influenced my time; the jersey probably didn't too much.

In the end I was a little disappointed with my lap times. Yes, the trail was a little muddy in spots, but it really wasn't too bad and it shouldn't have slowed me down much.


It's taken a little while, but I've come up with a good list of things to work on to improve my performance for my next race. My next race is in 3 weeks and is one of my favorites, the Brighton Stage Race!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Break...

Wow, it's been a busy few weeks. We took a nice trip to Georgia for a week. I brought my 'cross bike and rode 4 days. I kept the knee-warmers on for all but one ride, but it was nice to be out riding in the warmth. The highlight was a ride through the mountains near Dahlonega.

I'm definitely not used to climbing for so long. The first big climb took me about 45 minutes, with a little relief partway up. The second one was steeper, but shorter, and took about half an hour. The descent back down was stupid fun though... I feel bad for people that don't ride (or do something else) that is so much fun.

Unfortunately, work has been full-throttle since I've been back and shows no signs of slowing, thus, the lack of blogging.


I have more-or-less kept up with my training, despite the workload. I got out for a ride at Pontiac Lake last Sunday. It was my first trail ride of the season. It ended up being colder and windier than I expected, and it snowed on me a few times. I was pleasantly surprised that I rode well though. For whatever reason (more/better strength training, skills practice), my bike handling was surprisingly good, for me. It seems that my "default" position is stronger and more balanced, and everything just works better from this position. The bike corners better, lands more softly from drops, you name it. I noticed that any little bobbles I had happened when I was out of position and/or sitting too heavily on the saddle.

I rode at Pontiac Lake again last night with some Rhinos. A couple of the fast(er) guys dropped me quickly, but I kept pushing hard. My fitness seems to be a mixed bag so far this year. I feel strong, and I seem to be able to recover from hard efforts (climbs) pretty quickly, but my steady (seated) power doesn't seem so good. Maybe just not enough miles in the legs yet...


My plan is to race the PLRA TT tomorrow. It will be interesting, I still haven't ridden two laps in a row yet this year.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Relaxed Week

I had originally scheduled this week off in my training plan. Even though I've missed so much training time due to my illnesses, I decided to keep this week as off. Sick time is not equivalent to resting time! For the most part, all I did this week was stretch and massage with the foam roller and tennis ball.


Yesterday morning, I took both kids out for a ride in the trailer (one at a time). Cora only lasted about 5 minutes before she was ready to go home. It was Nathan's first ride, and he did great, he was mostly quiet and just looked around. After about 15-20 minutes, I decided not to push my luck and we went home. Maybe there is some potential for some longer rides with him? I'll be back to training this week,


I'm hoping to get a decent amount of riding in, but we'll see...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Barry-Roubaix

I raced Barry-Roubaix on Saturday. I was happy that I was even able to show up to the race not-injured and not-sick. I was over my stomach bug from earlier in the week, but since March was kind of a wreck from a training standpoint, I had no idea how I would race.


Dad and I ended up getting to the park a little late, so I didn't get a warmup in. It was cold, in the low 20's, but I ended up dressing just about perfectly. I did have a moment of panic early in the race when my fingers were freezing, but they warmed up after a few miles.


The race started pretty fast, but it should have been manageable. My lack of warmup and lack of training caught up to me though (big shock there...), and I was off the back of the main/front group before we hit the dirt roads.


I actually felt decent on the two-track section. I probably passed more people there than anywhere else. The sand was reasonably firm so it wasn't too difficult to ride through. You just had to watch for a couple of icy spots.


For most of the race, I felt strong on the climbs, and I was able to make up ground there, but I just didn't feel like I had any seated power, so I struggled on the flatter, faster parts. That trend sort of fits with what I've been training though... I just haven't put a lot of time in on the bike yet. My tires were probably also a little too aggressive and a little too soft. The roads were super smooth and fast, you could have just about used a road tire! I won't blame my tires, but I will use something different next year.


By the time we hit the paved roads again near the end of the course, I was pretty gassed. I had even less seated power, and my legs were getting close to cramping on the climbs. I ended up finishing about 10-15 minutes slower than I'd wanted to, but, given how my March went, the race probably went about as well as I could have expected.


In general, I had a good time at the race and I enjoyed the course. Dad raced again and beat his time from last year, despite having the wrong shoes for his pedals. I'm planning to do the race again next year, but I'm starting a list of things I'll do differently...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sick, Again!!!

Well, March has pretty much been a disaster for my training. I got a good day in on Monday, and then Tuesday I was pretty tired and had a scratchy throat, so I didn't do anything. Very early Wednesday morning my stomach rebelled on me and I was pretty miserable all day. I feel much better today, but my body is still out of whack. My resting heart rate was about 20 bpm higher than normal yesterday and again this morning.

I think I'll try to get on the trainer tonight and ride easy for a little while and see how that goes.
My new best-case plan for Barry-Roubaix is just to go out and ride it and not worry about going fast. I haven't been thinking about the worst-case.


In better news, today is Cora's third birthday! It's hard to believe that she's three already, but it's also hard to remember what things were like before she was born.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Solid Weekend

Well, the week started off a little rough. I didn't get feeling halfway decent until Wednesday. I did a couple strength workouts later in the week, but I was very conservative with my riding. Just some very short, very easy rides on Wednesday and Thursday.

Yesterday, I hit the dirt roads from Pontiac Lake to Davisburg. Temperatures were in the low 40's, so it was reasonably pleasant. I felt pretty strong early on, but I could tell that I haven't been riding much. My back started getting tired and sore about 2/3rds of the way through, and it was pretty sore by the time I finished. The ride didn't leave me feeling particularly confident about Barry-Roubaix. I came home, stretched and massaged with the foam roller and tennis ball, and my back seemed back to normal.

Today, I did mostly the same route, but I went farther to give an extra half hour of riding. This time, I stretched beforehand, and it seemed to help quite a bit. I could feel my back getting a little tired, but it never got to the point of bothering me. I felt much better for the first half of the ride today than I did yesterday (despite it being significantly colder today!). I started fading a bit after my turnaround point, but it wasn't too bad. I had a headwind coming home, so that was part of it. The wind blowing off the still mostly-frozen Pontiac Lake was really cold!

So, after today, I have some confidence that I should do OK at Barry-Roubaix next week. The extra week of recovering from my cold will probably help me more than anything else.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rough Weekend

Ugh... I had a rough week and weekend. I got good workouts in on Monday and Tuesday. I rode Wednesday night, but I felt pretty bad on the bike. Thursday I felt sick, and so did the rest of the family. Friday I seemed better, but everyone else was worse. Then I was a little worse on Saturday. Today, I feel worse, but everyone else seems to be getting better. Hopefully that means I'll be feeling better tomorrow.

I got my mountain bike mostly put back together today, but that's about all I did. No interesting new parts this year, I just cleaned and replaced the normal wear items (chain, cables, etc).

Barry-Roubaix is only two weeks away... hopefully I can ride soon.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

2011 Baseline Testing

I did some baseline testing for this year over the weekend.

My strength test was actually the second of the year (the first was here). I made good progress over the last test:

- Deadlift: I made an increase over my last test, but I'm still not quite to the level 1 target.
- Chinup: I added 1 chinup to my max, still at level 1.
- Turkish Getup: Actually did it this time around since I've been practicing the movement. Only about a third of the way to the level 1 weight though.
- 1-leg Squat: This one was a nice surprise. On my previous test, I got stuck at the bottom of the squat. This time, I didn't get stuck and was able to hit the level 1 target (5 reps). I hadn't been specifically training this exercise, so I was pretty happy to be able to do it! Next step... add weight.
- Pushup: Still at level 1. Level 2 is to do 12 pushups with hands on a suspension trainer. This is tough to do! My hands want to spread out as I get to the bottom.

So, I'm up to 3 out of 5 tests at level 1, and I'm making good progress on the exercises that aren't there yet.

The other testing I did was on the bike. There are two power levels (measured, as always, with my trusty, not-so-accurate-but-hopefully-repeatable Kintec Power Computer) I wanted to track this year: critical power at 5 minutes and at 30 minutes. For both tests, I didn't really feel great. I still have some lingering symptoms in my throat from my cold, but, aside from being annoying, it's not obviously affecting me.

I did the CP5 test first. I did it right after my strength testing, which may not have been a great idea, I don't know. I've only done this test twice ever. My memory was that it was a really hard test, and it didn't disappoint. I did fairly well compared to where I want to end up this year, about 13% away. I think that isn't so bad for early March.

I did the CP30 test the next day. Still had my throat thing going on, but it was a little better than Saturday. I'd been watching the kids all day, so I was ready for a little suffering on the bike. I didn't feel particularly good for the test, but I got through it and my pacing seemed OK. My result wasn't what I'd hoped for. It actually wasn't too far from where I've been other years at this time, but I'd hoped to see some improvement.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Spring Fever

I'm not the only one itching for better weather...


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Banned!

I have a couple lingering cold symptoms that seem to be slow in going away, but I'm otherwise back to normal. I did my normal training on Monday night and last night and everything seems good.

I moved into a new set of mobility drills, which included the squat-to-stand exercise. This was one that I suspected was involved with my knee injury last Spring. I didn't notice anything while I was doing it, but later, my knee was slightly achey again. So, that one is now forever banned (unless I can figure out what I'm doing wrong, but I'm hesitant to even try). It's a little strange, because I can do other deep squatting-type exercises with no problem. Anyway, the knee seems fine today, so it should be OK, but I'll pay extra attention to it and be cautious over the next few days.

I'm planning on doing some on-the-bike testing later this week. It's always interesting to compare the results to previous tests, but I'm especially curious this year since my training has been so different. It's too bad I was sick last week, no doubt that will skew these results down, but I should still be able to get a pretty good feel for where I am.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spring?

When I took Suzie out this morning, it seemed kind of warm, I could hear birds singing... seemed like Spring was in the air! (Even though we got another inch or so of new snow last night.)

I seem to be pretty much over my cold. Just a few minor lingering symptoms, but I otherwise basically feel good. I've done some light workouts the past couple days and have felt fine.

Another month to go before Barry-Roubaix!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cold Progress

I'm making progress on the cold. I felt quite a bit better yesterday, but still not 100%. I did my planned Strength workout and I felt fine, no unusual weakness or anything. I seem about the same today, which isn't ideal, but I didn't get any worse. It felt good to do something again...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sick

I ended up getting my workouts in Tuesday through Thursday this week. I wasn't feeling perfect, but I felt good during my workouts and I didn't seem to be getting any worse.

Friday morning though, I felt kind of bad, and it continued for the rest of the day and into today. So, now everyone in the family is sick. How fun...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More Output / Input

I did another 1.5 hours on the trainer Sunday. I was feeling pretty good and I pushed a little harder than I have been on other rides. It was probably more of a "tempo" ride than steady endurance. Anyway, I felt pretty good about it; then, I plotted my output/input numbers.


So, even though I set my best average power and speed numbers for the year, my heart rate was also much higher. The net effect was that it drove my ratio way down. Does it matter? Not really, but it made me think about how the ride has to be to use this kind of chart. Basically, I think you either have to try to hit the same HR every time, and see what happens to your power, or hit the same power every time, and see if you can do it at a lower HR.

I skipped my workout yesterday. I was tired and I'd felt a little sick all day. I'm still not feeling perfect today, but we'll see how I'm doing tonight.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Snowy Trail Ride

I went over to Lake Orion High School on Saturday to ride the trails. The school has been trying to keep them clear to help promote some races being held there. The trails are a mix of paths through the fields around the school and trails through the woods.

As of Friday night, someone had posted that the trails were 95% rideable. So, Saturday morning, I prepped my singlespeed for the ride. I oiled the brake cables so that they wouldn't freeze (a tip from Icebike ), and I decided to put my clipless pedals on the bike, since the trail was supposed to be almost all rideable.

As it turned out, it was a pretty windy morning, and most of the trails in the fields were drifted over with about 6 inches of snow. Unrideable by me; so they required lots of pushing. The trails in the woods were clear and awesome though! I had a great time being back out on my mountain bike.


Even though a snowmobile had gone over here, the snow was still deep enough I couldn't ride it...

I learned a couple things though... since I was off the bike pushing so much, the clipless pedals and shoes were basically worthless. It didn't take too long before the pedals were packed with snow and ice and I couldn't clip in any more. Also, the velcro on my shoes got packed up with snow, and so it was also pretty worthless.

Cornering in the snow made me use all of my Gene skills. If I didn't look through the corner, lean the bike, and really weight my outside pedal, I'd feel like I was going to blow right through the corner. So, it was good skills practice.

It looks like we're going to have a little bit of a warmup this week. Probably not so good for more trail riding, but maybe it will mean I can get out on the roads a little. We'll see...


In the woods, the snow on the "groomed" trail wasn't even an inch deep. It was fast and fun!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Strange Time

This is kind of a strange time in my training. I've been at it for a while, and I'm seeing some physical changes, but I still don't feel particularly good on the bike yet. I've noticed this in other years too. After a month or so, you sort of feel like you should be back to mid-summer form, but you're not. Just need to have a little patience.

The weather is supposed to be reasonably warm this weekend. I'm thinking about trying to get outside and ride a little. I've been riding up to an hour and a half on the trainer. Although I have done longer rides on the trainer in other years, an hour and a half is close to my boredom limit.

Monday, February 07, 2011

UCI Cyclocross Schedule

I've been looking for this for a while, and today I saw that Velonews has published the 2011/2012 UCI cyclocross schedule.

A few disappointments, the Cincinnati UCI3 race overlaps with Iceman, and the Louisville USGP overlaps with a Tailwind CX series race (Stony Creek).

That leaves only the Madison USGP on an open weekend.

There's also a Chicago Cross Cup UCI race over the New Year weekend, which makes sense given the later Nationals date, but I'm planning to be done racing by then...

Sunday, February 06, 2011

More Skiing and Strength Testing

I cut down my XC ski poles a bit this week. It wasn't too hard. I skied again yesterday; it was much colder and the snow seemed faster. Unfortunately, the tracks weren't in as good of shape, several hikers had walked all over them. Anyway, I still had a good time, and my poles were at a much better height for me.



I did some strength benchmark testing last night after the kids went to bed. James Wilson published some benchmarks for mountain bikers. My idea was to check my progress against the benchmarks at the start of each phase.

There are two upper body tests (chinups and pushups), two lower body tests (deadlift and single leg squat) and one core / full body test (Turkish Getup). I haven't been training most of these movements, so I was interested to see how they would work out. The results were a little surprising. I passed the first level of both upper body exercises. My deadlift was just OK, but not good enough to get to the first benchmark. I got stuck at the bottom on my 1-leg squat. My technique on the Turkish Getup was bad enough that I decided not to test that one.

So, I hit the first benchmark on 2 out of 5. Not so bad for one month of training. Still, it's interesting that it's the upper body tests that I passed. Just sort of reinforces that I need to be doing strength training.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Take What You Can Get

I had an interesting night last night. The kids came home relatively late (for them), which is always an adventure. Nathan gave me a big smile and big hug when he saw me; 2 minutes later he was screaming and crying, which he pretty much did for the rest of the night. Cora took the opposite approach. She wanted nothing to do with me when she got home and cried (or was on the verge) for most of the bedtime routine. I finally got a good hug from her right before she went to bed. I'll take what I can get.

I don't know which is worse when the kids get in those moods. To be the one they want nothing to do with (you feel bad, but you can also do something else), or to be the one that they need (you're needed, which is nice, but then you have to do all of the work).


This week was supposed to be a rest week of sorts in my training plan. I did rest on Tuesday, but Wednesday we had the big snowstorm, so I spent a good chunk of time shoveling. I worked out last night, but today is another rest day. I'm looking forward to that... definitely too early in the season to be getting tired.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

DIY Press Statement

Good post on the Fat Cyclist blog today.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Output Input Ratio

There have been a couple of good posts recently on Joe Friel's blog. One about confidence speaks for itself. There's another about charting your base training progress by checking the ratio of outputs to inputs.

This output/input seems like a pretty simple and logical method to track progress, and, particularly on the trainer, doesn't require much in the way of equipment. I've plotted my ratios over 4 rides, none particularly long, just 1 to 1.5 hours. It will be interesting to see how this chart looks as I continue to build up.


Today I'm a bit sore from skiing on Saturday. Definitely found a few muscles that must not get used in my normal activities!

We're supposed to get dumped on this week; maybe 10 inches of snow tomorrow night. If that's the case, I'll try to find a way to get some more skiing in this week...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Highland Skiing

I went over to Highland State Park this morning and out on my first cross-country ski of the year. We'd gotten a couple of inches of snow overnight, so I was sure that there would be enough.

I hadn't skied at Highland before, but since I haven't seen much written about it, I figured that there wouldn't be many people. I almost expected to be there by myself. Wrong! There were about 10 cars at the trailhead when I got there.

A guy parked next to me and introduced himself; he was also a mountain biker, and he knew this trail well. So, he showed me through the intermediate loop before he went on ahead. It was nice to follow him for awhile; I learned some things about XC ski technique just watching him. He was much faster than me.


Anyway, I had a nice time skiing. The trails at Highland are a little tighter than Independence Oaks, and not groomed. Enough skiers had gone through that there were a clear set of tracks to follow though.


It was just a few degrees below freezing, so, by about the halfway point, my skis really felt slow and was wishing I had about one less layer on. Good information for next time I guess.

Making Progress

My back has been feeling really good since early in the week. Actually, it's better now than it has been in a long time. Nearly perfect, but not quite...

I've been focusing on strength workouts so far this year; I'm also riding some, but that really hasn't ramped up yet. I feel like I'm making good progress; I'm definitely getting stronger. We'll see if it helps me ride my bike faster... The last year I stuck with strength workouts for the whole year (2007), I had a very good year. So we'll see...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oops

I played hockey Sunday night. It was a good skate, but it really caught up with my back. My back had been feeling pretty good; still not perfect, but I felt like I was nearly there. Hockey seemed to really tighten up the muscles in my back, and I've been a little sore Monday and so far today.


I've been following the recommendations in Esther Gokhale's book, and they've worked really well in helping my back out. I'm just not quite there yet...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Normal Weekend

I'm looking forward to having a relatively normal weekend. I don't have any big plans, so it will be nice just to hang out at home.


I got over my jet lag by about Thursday this week. It wasn't too bad, I was waking up at night, but not for very long. Mainly, I just got really tired in the afternoons.


I skipped my workout on Monday since I was so tired, but I stayed on track after that. I felt terrible on my bike Tuesday night, but I rode anyway. Wednesday and Thursday were strength workouts, and those both felt really good. My legs are feeling a little worked over right now, but otherwise, I'm feeling good to be back into a little bit of a routine.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

China Trip

"The oxen are slow, but the earth is patient."

So, my trip to China was kind of rough. We missed our connection in Beijing, and the next flight we could get on was at 8pm the next day! So, we tried to catch the late train to Changchun, but we missed that by about 10 minutes. We ended up staying in a hotel in Beijing, then we caught the early train to Changchun the next morning.

(Beijing airport. Apparently it was finished for the Olympics, so everything was nice and new.)

The train was nice, but it was a really long trip... about 6 hours, and this was a high-speed train!




(Various sights from the train ride. In this last picture, you can see the tall, relatively new, apartment buildings that seem to be everywhere in China.)

I had a runny nose and sore throat almost the whole trip. I'm not sure if it was from the little cold I had the week before or from the air pollution. My guess is the pollution, but I don't know for sure. Some days seemed OK, but I really noticed it on other days.


(Huge shopping mall in Changchun. There was a large section of the mall devoted to stores that only sold doors...)

(Weaving loom picture for Mom...)

(Changchun from my hotel room window. Yes, the window was a little dirty, but there is also some pretty significant smog in the air.)

You definitely noticed the cold too... the worst during the day was -18F, but it got colder at night (-28F)! I was worried that the buildings would all be cold, but, if anything, they were too hot! Still, I was glad that I brought all the cold-weather gear that I did.


(Below-ground Chinese market in Changchun.)


(Mom's mittens did the trick for keeping my hands warm.)


(This guy's rickshaw was loaded up with cardboard, which he was likely taking to a recycling center to sell.)

The trip home went much more smoothly than the trip there. My layovers were all fairly long, so there wasn't much pressure to move quickly through the airport.

(First class lounge at the Beijing airport... Nice!)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

A Little Discretion

I had to exercise a little discretion with my workouts this week. I couldn't tell if I was getting a cold or not earlier this week (sometimes the incense from yoga leaves me a little stuffy the next day). Finally, I decided it was a cold, so I skipped my workout on Thursday. My knee also felt just a little tweaky on Wednesday.

Anyway, I'm still not 100% cold-wise, but I'm close. I rode for a little over an hour today on the trainer and I felt fine (my cold and my knee). Hopefully I don't get sick while I'm gone.

I'm usually terrible about taking pictures on trips, but I will try to do better this time. I'm off to a bad start by not packing my camera, but I do plan to use my phone to take some pictures. I got hassled about all my electronic stuff at some airport (I don't remember where, Paris?) last year, so I'm not bringing so much this time. I will try to take some pictures though.