Thursday, November 30, 2006

Training update

Sorry there hasn't been much activity here. There just isn't that much going on. I'm taking a little break from the obsessive cycling mindset and just following my strength training in roboto mode with a few rides here/there just to spin the legs.

I finished the first 2 weeks of hypetrophy. And I just started a 2 week cycle of strength. It always amazes me how doable, dare I say easy, the strength phase seems.

When I fill out my spreadsheet the weights are filled out for all the phases. As I start hypetrophy I take a look at what's coming in strength and am wondering how I'll be able to lift that kind of weight. Yet without fail the plan comes together.

Strength phase as me lifting only two days a week, so I might get on the bike some. I'm going to do 2 weeks of strength and then go back to hypetrophy for 2 weeks. But I'll be resetting the maximums that are used to fill out the worksheets. So I'll be lifting more than I did the first go around.

Then 2 more weeks of strength and then back to power.

I haven't counted the weeks yet see where I'm going to be come the first race. I've got a feeling I might be a little behind schedule come Dragon's Back.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Great weather

The weather has been amazing up here. 60s this weekend. Sunny and 60s and it is almost December.

We went to Pipestem state park for the weekend. We love that place. Lots of fun things to do with the kids. They have some trails up there an have had races there.

The trails aren't super pristine single track but I like it. Though some parts of utterly destroyed from horses. It boogles my mind how badly horses can destroy a trail. Whoever says that mountain bikes cause more damage than other trail users needs to check out some spots at Pipestem. Even ATVs can't trash a trail like that.

For the most part the trails are pretty smooth, except for some parts of the County line downhills. There are a couple of rock gardens/creek crossings. The climb back up the River trail is a good one too.

I was pleasantly surprised how well I rode given that it's the middle of hypetrophy. The snap in the legs is gone but I'm amazed at how high a gear I was comfortable turning.

Back at home today, I opted to get another ride in given the weather. The ride didn't go as well as yesterday. My legs felt tired and my handling felt really off. I realized that my fork felt a little soft. I pumped it up and checked it out again, and it felt a lot better. Lesson learned, check fork pressures more often.

Hungry Mother State Park Race: Fall Fear

Two weeks ago we went down to Hungry Mother State Park south of here near Marion, VA. This is a small local race that was actually cancelled earlier this year. But a local rider felt strongly enough that it should continue that he took it upon himself to pull it together. Now that is some mountain bike racing love.

He was expecting 10 people and he got almost 40. They ran out of numbers and had to write them down by hand on paper. How cool is that. Oh, I'm writing this report as a spectator by the way. My wife raced and I watched. Well my wife and son.

It was pretty chilly when we got there. The kids race had 2 little kids and a 13 year old that was practically riding wheelies.
Basically a one lap up/back to some cones in a parking lot. I hope next year they run the kids on some dirt because Hungry Mother, unlike many mountain bike venues actually has some easy trails that kids can handle.

Then it was time for the big kids to race. .
It was pretty cool, the promoter ran the racer's meeting than pulled a quick change into his bike clothes and jumped onto the start line. He got second in the beginner class and then stayed on the finish line to help process the finishers.

My wife was SOOO nervous. This was actually her FIRST bike race in 9 years. She rides on the trainer at home, runs and gets outside maybe once a week. She doesn't know it but she is a hoss.

They ran a mass start on the road for about 50' before cutting into the singletrack the runs around the lake

The course is about as non-technical as you can get. I am a firm believer that less technical a course is that harder a race it is. Smooth courses tend to make you feel like you're going slower, so you push yourself to go harder. Technical ability isn't a limiter anymore except for fast cornering.

The experts ran two laps and beginners ran 1 lap. I'd suggest that they have experts run 3 laps, Sports 2 laps, Beginners 1 lap. The top racers came in with 35-40 minute lap times.

It was nice to be on the sidelines. My mindset had switched over to offseason a few weeks earlier. My wife came in ahead of the other sport women and was the only expert woman in the race. So she continued on for her second lap.

She finished with 45 minute lap times. The top experts finished with 35 minute lap. She and my son cleaned up.
Cash money for her, and $100 Savings bond from the Bank of Marion . That has got to be the best kid's race prize I've ever seen. What a great idea.

I as amazed at what they pulled together for this race in such a shor time. Good prizes, pizza, and they payed back money to the racers. No just experts, but other classes too. And they went several deep in each class. My son now knows one of the axioms of mountain bike racing: It doesn't matter how fast you are. You can't win unless you show up.

My wife was quite happy as well. For her first race in such a long time she did all right. Besting several of the men in the 2 lap expert category, and riding the steep CCC trail where others walked.

After she came in, I went out for a lap. The two slices of most excellent free pizza were sitting a little too nicely in my stomach. With the lap times known, I went out. Of course I started my stop watch. So it wasn't going to be a leisurely ride no matter what I'd said earlier about this being the off season.

The lake trail is pretty fun and fast. Smooth as can be. The expert course turned up onto a CCC trail. This was a beast. It had to be one of the steepest cleanable trails I'd ever been on. Lots of trails are steeper but they also are beyond my ability to ride. This trail was right on the edge of being rideable for me.

It was a tease of a trail too. 3-4 sections of straight up spread out with some easier sections in between. The leaves hid any roots/rocks and promoted the rear tire to spin. Man it was tough tough. It was all I had to clean this thing. The kiss of death would have been grabbing my granny granny gear and I was proud to have stayed in 1-2 up from the granny. I was talking with the winner of the race and he said he hits this thing in his middle. WOW.

Back on the Lake trail it winds around the perimeter of Hungry Mother lake. Pretty cool, wide open with some sharp turns. Like I'd said earlier the smooth trail made me feel like I should be going faster. The lake trail dumped out to the road and it sure seemed to take longer than I expected to get back to the finish.
40 minutes. 5 minutes off the leaders. My wife was only 5 minutes behind me, and she ran two laps both at 45 minutes.

I did NOT want to do another.. It's the off season after all.

The park service said they are going to put on the race again next year for sure. I heard that this was one of the best turnouts they've ever had. What a fun time. Everyone from registration to the park service were so nice. And Hungry mother is just a little jewel of a park. It doesn't have the epic trails of Douthat but it is pretty fun.

So put the Fall Fear on your calendar for next year. It's definitely a great race for a beginner or someone who doesn't do much off roading. It's also a great race for more advanced riders cause it will push you to your limit. You get very little recovery on this course.

Friday, November 17, 2006

miscalculation in weights

So I started my Hypetrophy phase yesterday. I wrote a spreadsheet to help organize the Morris lifting program. Each phase's weights are calculated off of 1 rep maxes.

I was going to use what I'd entered last year and adjust as necessary. The first day of hypetrophy is always a little shock even after the 3 weeks of transition lifting. But it did feel a little harder than in the past. Then I realized that the maxes that were listed in my spreadsheet were after a round of 2 week hypetrophy and 2 weeks strength.

In the past I've done 4 weeks of hypetrophy, 2 weeks strength, 2 weeks power. Last year I did 2 weeks hypetrophy 2 weeks strength and then repeated 2 weeks of hypetrophy and 2 weeks strength. But I reset my maximums in the spreadsheet to a higher number after the first round.

And that's what I started with yesterday. I adjusted down today. But if I recall, the first week is tough and later I found myself adjusting some weights up.

6 sets of 10-12 is hard. It's time consuming too because I've been following the recommended 1.5-2min rest between sets. But the rest helps a lot to complete the next set.

I've been just trying different stuff for upper body. I like it, but I've put on some muscle. My core strength has improved too. It's helped with technical riding and on steep climbing. I hope it's not a boat anchor for long climbs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Slightly OT (off topic)

This is pretty far off the topic of cycling / mtb racing. But I'm not going to let that keep me from making many off the wall analogies to mtb racing.

Lately I've been feeling the itch to make something. For a long while I've been really focused on cycling which ranges from training, resting to working on bikes. I quite enjoy getting absorbed into the working on bikes. But it's not the same as making something.

I really get a kick out of taking raw materials and creating something from them. Bikes are sort of like that: a combination of different components that create an extension of your body. Well frames are for sure. Tubing, put together in a design, finished off into a useable work of art. Framebuilding would be cool. But the raw materials cost a pretty penny, as do the required tools. It can be done on a limited budget I'm sure but I'm not ready to tackle that.

Years ago I made some knives. It's sort of funny because I'm certainly not an outdoorsman, into military or fighting, except for action movies, I don't fish or hunt, or hardly even camp for that matter. For whatever odd reason I got into the craft of knifemaking. It's actually an easy thing to do with limited tools /space. Files and sandpaper are the primary tools on a budget. A dremel tool or a 1x30 cheap sander helps some, but not as much as you'd think. A drill press is probably the only real tool needed but a hand drill works too.

It's been years since I made one. I tried two years ago to make a folding knife and kept screwing it up and just plain gave up. The pieces have been sitting in a box since. With the down time between racing season and the strength training, my mind needed a break. I need something else to obsess over. I don't have hobbies, I have obsessions. Just part of my nature. If I had cable I'd be watching this. It's amazing what you can accomplish sucka.

I just love the transformation of the raw materials of steel, wood, tubing, pins

into a useable tool that actually can look cool. Each step is agonizingly slow. And the process forces me to be patient. Sort of like training. Each step leads into the next and needs to be completed to the best of your ability. The typical want it now mentality of America just doesn't cut it. Just like training for races. The hard work you do in November pays off in July. It's also easy to get caught up and lose yourself in the workshop. I tried to do just a little at a time, an hour here or there.

Slowly, ever so slowly it starts to take shape:

A propane torch was used to heat treat it:

nickel silver bolsters:


Dessert Ironwood handle scales

Rough around the edges.

And eventually, it's ready for race season

This going to be my box opener. As any mail order junky knows you never have a knife around when you need one. Now I can get back to ordering bike parts.

The steel is O1 ground 3/16" thick
The bolsters and pins are nickel silver

The bolsters are dovetailed

Handles are Dessert Iron wood scales

The blade is hand rubbed up to 1500 grit and then rubbed with a 600 grit satin finish.

There are plenty of mistakes. You just try and strive to do better next time. Just like racing. You can always learn and go harder next time.

Strength training coming up

I'm almost done with my transition lifting. It's been more than 3 weeks of some easy lifting. I slowly work up to 4 sets still at some light weights. I only got really sore at the beginning.

Hypetrophy is the first phase of strength training. It is a killer. 6 sets 8-12 reps. It just torches the legs.

I'm not going to follow the same plan for upper body though. I'm doing some new stuff that I really like that focuses on functional and core too.

-inverted rows

-standing military over the head
-single leg rows (stand on one leg, bend over with 10lb dumbell in one arm) This is a great one for balance

-woodchopper with the cable machine
-bird dog-30 sec/side
-superman-30 seconds
-pushups/lift one leg on a swiss ball

There's always debate on the strength training issue. Whether or not to do it, and if so how to do it. Linear periodization like I do vs newer types of periodization.

It's tempting to read stuff and then change the plan. But I'm trying to just stick with my plan. I like that Dave uses strength training as one part of a whole plan. Too many people look at it in total isolation.

BELIEVE. There was a article in some bike mag of favorite lessons from pro-racers. I think it was Freddy Rodriguez that said Believe. Find something to believe in and stick with it.

During the hypetrophy phase, my riding will be just messing around. The legs get really torched in this period, and it plays games with your head when you ride. I just have to remember that I won't be realizing the benefits until April and May. No convenience store mentality here. No quick fix. Slow and steady on day at a time.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fall Fear Bike Race: Hungry Mother State Park Sat-Nov 18th

Just got word of a local race down at Hungry Mother State Park.

This is an awesome place. It's about 1 hr south of Blacksburg right off I-81. We got a cabin there for Thanksgiving last year and didn't realize that all the food would be closed after noon. We ended up eating Sonic Drivethrough and getting a Frozen apple pie. My son asked if we could go to Sonic again for Thanksgiving.

The race is called the Fall Fear. It is on SATURDAY November 18th.

Here is the course map.

This race was cancelled but someone took it upon themselves to get it going again. That's some commitment. Come out and give them some support. Not sure yet, I might have to work. But if it falls through my wife wants to race it. There is are two age groups of kids races as well. So fun for the whole family.

The hiking is good, and they have a decent little nature center too.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Trials practice

Nice sunny day. Haven't been in the bike in more than a week. Saw an email about a group ride run by Nathan through the NRVBA. My wife rode with them the other week and said it was a lot of fun, so I figured I'd try to get out.

My back is a little better, but it's still soar. I probably shouldn't be mountain biking but just couldn't help it. I didn't do much, but it really wore me out. We climbed Old Farm then went down sidewinder to the difficult switchback.

I actually rode down it today. That makes let's see 3 times in my life. Then we practiced trying to climb it. This is a steep/rooted switchback. I've only seen one other person clean it climbing it. That was until today. Now I've seen two people clean it.

The only way to do it is to come to a complete stop and Trials your way through it.

Bicycle Trials is something that has always fascinated me from the very first mountain bike race I attended. Back then they had bicycle trials competitions at a lot of the races. The first XC race I ever entered had a trials competition before hand. I got to see some sponsored riders from Ibis.

The next day I tried to do it. Of course I started the absolute wrong way. And cinched down my toestraps super tight and tried to bounce. Once bounce. Then a while later, two bounces, then three. Basically all I could do was bounce around in one spot.

I wish wish, that someone had told me to try to learn with flat pedals and no clips.

At one point I could bounce sideways up steps. I never really learned how to go very far forward. That was years ago and haven't done much.

Till today, we tried to get up this switchback. Nathan and Chad were getting pretty far and then Nathan cleaned it. It was so awesome. His front wheel was just poised a few inches of the ground, setting down slowly and he inched is way up.

We hollered it up after that. Then we climbed back up and towards the top there are some log steps. We tried trials hopping up each one. Man that stuff just takes it out of me. Immediate redline. It's inspired me to mess around a little bit more.

When you train and ride XC I don't usually stop to mess around on stuff like I used to. It was fun.

But I'm tired. My upper body is tired just from riding. My back still isn't totally right, and I haven't been doing any upper body stuff in more than a week either. This ride really drove home how important that is for me to stay on top of.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Forgeting to put out the trash.

My wife and older son went to Chicago for 4 days to visit her brother. I've been home with the other kid.

I'm sitting here checking emails for work this morning and the garbage truck goes by. Without our trash on the street. Missed the boat on that one. I must say that I don't know how my wife does it. How she runs this ship of daily life.

My world swirls with all the tiny minutiae you see presented here. From small tweaks to components to the smallest detail of carbohydrate content in gatorade. I'm having a hard time just getting the kid dressed and on the bus. Soccer. Cleats, shin guards, water. Jersey. What time, where. ...

Monday. School day. He doesn't like what's on the menu. Pack the lunch. Don't forget the icepack. Check the folder for notes from teacher. socks, shoes, coat, brush teeth. Bus comes at 7:58am. It's 7:57 where are your shoes?

Be home by 3:45 to meet the bus. It's 3:30 gotta wrap work up. don't be late. . Dinner? What, no mac&cheese in the cupboard

I don't feel like argueing with him over eating something else. Hello.. Dominoes..One order of breadsticks please. Make sure that the breadsticks don't touch any sauce. Got that?

No you can't have any candy until after dinner. Drink your milk. Get your jammies on. No movie till you drink your milk. Go ahead and cry. Ok. 30 minutes till time for bed. 5 minutes till time for bed. Time for bed. Brush teeth. Floss. Read book(s).

I actually cleaned the kitchen and vacuumed the house. So that was just one room. And I was exhausted. The clothes are already piling up. I'm not even going to go there. Is this a colored, or white. It's okay to wash this red towel with the white clothes right? I guess I could look it up on the Internet and figure it out. Is gray considered a color or white. There needs to be an mtbr for laundry. 4 hours on the forums and I'd have 100 opinions on how to do laundry. 2 more hours of sifting to distill the information to a useful plan, and than I'd be ready.

4 days isn't that long. Any longer and I'd have to completely rewire my head. Dominoes and Wendy's won't cut it for long.

It's hard to mix minutae from one area with another. Bedding in Juicy 7 brakes and the proper positioning for corners doesn't mix well with the proper procedure for packing lunch and how to tie this karate uniform and belt.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Azure Suspension setup tips

Here are some thoughts for setting your DW-link suspension bike. This is based on my experience with the Hollowpoint and Azure. It may be applicable to other bikes. I'm not sure if this is the 'right way' but at least it's a methodology that you can start with.


Step 1: Start somewhere
you gotta start somewhere. I just put some air in the main spring. Maybe 75% of your weight. And I put the minimum recommended by the manufacturer in the SPV/CVT platform chamber. For rebound I start with it all the way out (Fastest - bounciest)

Step 2: Measure Sag
What I do is ride around, bouncing up and down to make sure the platform is broken, then settle into a balanced position while seated on the bike. I then press then o-ring all the way down on the shock. Then slowly approach my car or a stool. With very light braking come to a stop by the stool or back of the car and step off the bike.

Using a ruler or calipers, measure how much the O-ring has moved. My shock has a stroke of 1.5"=38.1 mm. I am shooting for 25% sag so that is 9.5mm of travel.

If there is more than 25% sag, I add a few PSI to the main chamber and repeat. If less, I remove a few psi from the main chamber and repeat.

Step 2: Setting rebound
This is an area that I've never understood very well. Only a few weeks ago I read this thread at the IH forums at mtbr. In the thread, DW said this about setting up an Azure shock:
Just pump the shock up to give you 25% sag and tune the rebound so that when you jump on the pedals once, the suspension compresses, and then uncompresses, but does not compress a second time.

I've been doing this lately, and am amazed how it changes the characteristics of the bike. It feels much better, especially when climbing. I didn't realize how much the rebound settings also affect compression damping. I made a short video on what this compress/ucompress/not compress again looks like. In the video I think the rebound is still a tad fast, and I've since turned it in by a click.

Before reading this tip, I believe my rebound damping had been too low and it bounced too much.

Step 4: Recheck sag
I'm never sure how dependent each variable is on the other variables. So after setting the rebound, I just go back and redo the whole process of checking sag.

Step 5: ride

One thing I noticed is that the bike pedals/climbs stiffer with the rebound slower. It took some time to get used to but it feels really fast. It's always a compromise between climbing/pedaling and downhilling though and sometimes on downhills I'd like to decrease the rebound damping.

If I bottom out harshly, which never happens at my weight, you can turn up the platform. Or for courses with lots of climbing, I'll turn up the platform by 5psi.

SW VA grass roots racing in November

Bare bones mountain cross series in Roanoke County November 12th and 19th.

Not sure I'll be there for the first one as I might be working. Might make the 2nd one. Put it on your calendar if you're looking for some low key, grassroots fun racing.


My back is feeling much better. I got some great advice from some well wishers. Basically, Ibuprofen or alleve and rest. Bike riding is as long as it doesn't hurt though roadriding might be better than mountain biking.

Even though it isn't hurting as much I'm going to take it easy for several days. After alternating lifting and riding the last two weeks, doing nothing feels quite drastic. It got cold again here, so I'm not itching to get out on the road bike either.

Wife and older son are going on trip so I'm home with the little one. So there wasn't going to be any real riding anyway for a few days.

It bums me a little because the last few rides I've done have been really good. I don't recall ever riding this well after the season ended. In the past it seemed that as soon as the season was over my fitness dropped dramatically very quickly. I think this fall I've been riding more than usual and going just long/hard enough to keep the legs primed and because I'm rested all the time each ride feels super strong. Plus technically, I feel much better so that makes each ride better.

One more week until the hypertrophy phase starts.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


No clue how I did it, but I pulled something in my back. middle back on the left side.

I think I did it doing some twists with a medicine ball. Basically, I had a ball and was twisting side to side slowly, and only like 4 times. I mean like hardly anything at all.

Or I might have done it just pulling up on the bar of the bike to coaster wheelie. Regardless it started to bug me a little when doing subtle movements, or when stabilizing the torso such as when getting up from the sofa or a chair. It wasn't one of those immediate sharp pains that hit you out of the blue when you do something basic like picking up a pen. It came on slowly.

I think I did something to a deep tissue stabilizing muscle

But it didn't seem that bad. I even went mountain biking with my wife and it didn't bother me at all. I was riding very well, pretty technical and was moving all over the bike and felt nimble. However later that night it was bothering me much more when trying to get up from a sitting position.

This morning it didn't seem too bad and thought it might be going away. But I went to the gym to continue my transition lifting, which is still very very light weight. And I couldn't even do one squat with no weight. I went back to the car and could barely get in.

Subtle movements will trigger the muscles to tighten and it just takes my breath away.

I'm not sure if I should go to a PT or just take it easy and hope it goes away.

Regardless, I'm off the bike and weights until it come back.