Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A solution to carrying the sport legs I hope

I love Sport legs, but the form factor is a pain in the butt. In intense race situations I do best with 4-5 capsules an hour. I've had a hard time figuring out how to carry this and dispense it.

They come in sample packets that look like gels.

But these require using two hands to open or ripping the top off and spitting it out which is littering.

I had been using these little pill boxes with a push button it that allowed opening with one hand. But these are still sort of a pain. On this past century I used baggies which was a real pain.

Came across this:


or this


I'm gonna try this out to see if it's faster to intake.

Road Tire rotation strategy.

When riding the road bike on the trainer a lot, the rear wheel gets pretty worn down. It gets a flat spot down the middle.

The front tires really don't wear down that much. I rotated the front to the rear and the rear to the front. However when cornering it was really scary. The worn down tire from the rear just didn't corner very well.

The plan now is to move the front to the rear and trash the worn down rear tire and put a new one on. This saves a little money in that you don't replace both tires at the same time. But it's safer than putting the really worn rear tire onto the front.

Hitting like a ton of bricks

Legs are dead. Weekend's ride plus doing some intervals yesterday has hit them like a ton of bricks.

Just spun for an hour and it was hard to just turn the pedals. My wife is starting to get strep throat. She probably had something in her system before this weekend but get so run down that her immune system couldn't fight it off. This has happened before to her.

Time for a little rest then back into it. It's all on big cycle of ebb and flow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

misery obsession

It's interesting how something that I wasn't really into has taken on a life of it's own. From the second I finished MOM this year I was planning the steps to improve on the time.

I've got a friend that was really into mountain biking and then he got into this thing and it's all he thinks about and prepares for. I can totally see why now. Having finally had a good experience with the ride I can see the lure of wanting to improve on the time.

The training effect from it can't do anything but help mountain bike racing I'd hope. These kinds of rides provide some great baseline strength. The key is to tweak the fitness with mountain bike specific types of efforts.

I wanted to get some thoughts/ideas down before I forget about it.

-The plan my wife came up with is perfect for preparing for MOM. I didn't follow it exactly but this will help anyone prepare for this ride in 13 weeks

Week# Miles Ride
1 30 Spruce Run
2 35
3 45
4 50-55 Blacksburg, Spruce run up backside, Clover Hollow, 460--home
5 50-55
6 ?? Whatever
7 60-65 Bradshaw with some add on
8 60 Newport to River to backside x2
9 75 1st part of MOM w/o cloverhollow
10 65-70
11 85 1st part of MOM with clover hollow
12 40
13 103 MOM

In order to accomplish these rides while training for mtb racing at the same time, I just substituted one of these rides in place of a race sim. This did hurt me some for mountain bike specific efforts but it was totally worth it to be able to ride this thing well.

I did do the 2x up the backside ride twice which was helpful. The backside is the key to MOM. This is basically two rides to me. The first 100 miles and the last 3. The backside has the potential to take an hour or more from your life. There is just no way to hide on this thing. The last 2 miles are just something else when under the fatigue of the previous 101 miles. You see the 2 mile and 1 mile to go signs on the road and you think it's almost over. Big mistake. It's not over till the cowbells are ringing.

My one friend did the whole ride solo and stashed some water/fuel at the halfway point. If I can psyche myself up for it is the one thing I'd want to do if I was preparing for it to break a time goal. It is the only way to shock my body into remembering what it feels like to hit the back side.

Another option would be to do the 2x up the backside ride and then hit clover hollow, or maybe go back down 613 and do the climb a third time. No way to hide from the fatigue.

The other keys for me had been to do the training rides hard. Really hurt on John's Creek and clover hollow and to dangle away in the wind. Come the real ride the ability to ride in big groups made things much easier. That's the additional key. Getting with the right group and staying with the group w/o killing yourself.

Weight has also been a positive factor this year. I'm at my lowest in memory. This has been very helpful for these hilly long rides. I'm not so sure it's as beneficial for thr mountain bike races, but I'll take whatever advantage it brings for rides like this.

The problems with a faster time lie in getting the stoppage time down. The rest stops kill the clock and having to eat/drink/pee are just a pain when it comes to time. My hope is that with a slightly higher intensity that I'll actually be able to get away with needing less to eat. Counter intuitive I know, but my body has a switch point somewhere in intensity when it comes to how much fuel is needed. At high intensity I can get away with less.

The limiting issue is really how fast things clear from my stomach. At high intensity, I can't clear at that high a rate so I can't eat that much. But my body seems to burn what I've got more efficiently. At lower intensities all of a sudden I just need to eat almost twice as much.

I'm thinking of experimenting with high calorie sources of liquid food like Perpeteum. Not totally remove solid food but maybe this will help cut down on how much I need to stop.

The other think is stopping to go to the bathroom. At a certain intensity, bladder function seems to shut down a little. Go easier and then I gotta stop to go much more. I'm wondering too if I drank too much during the ride as I was so worried about the heat. Which was a record high btw.

It's time to shift focus back to mtb racing but I think next year I'll be doing this again. My ride time this year was 6:28 and my overall time was 6:53. My goal for next year is 6:30 overall.

-Tip. When climbing if going to stand always grab one higher gear then go back to one lower when you sit back down.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Props to John

Props to John DeLong co-worker and racer on Alliance Environmental for a top 5 at an NRC race.

Raliegh Twilight. Riding in a breakaway that lapped the field. That's pretty impressive.

I love jawing with John about riding. I get so jazzed to go ride hard after talking about his races.

MOM report

The Mountains of Misery Challenge Century ride was today.

MOM, upside down and backwards=WOW. What an awesome day. Things went way way better than I ever could have expected them to go. The potential for carnage on this ride is high. The distance, the heat, potential stomach distress, leg cramping, etc... But in almost every way the day exceeded expectactions. And as typical with cyclist short term memories I'm already thinking about next year.

I urge anyone to try this thing out. I do not recommend going off the couch and trying it, but with a well thought out training plan (which my wife designed and I'll post) you can finish this thing.

Thanks much to the organizers of the event they do such an incredible job. They had over 200 volunteers between today and the Wilderness Road Ride yesterday. All the rest stops had happy people wanting to help, and at the top they immediately help you across the line, take your bike from you and hand you your bag.

My wife and friend John decided to ride this together. The plan was to stay together until the bottom of the Backside climb. Mission accomplished in spades. It was really fun to ride with my wife because we do it so rarely now. Staying together always gave us a minimum of 3 to share the load and ride faster. Though John did the lion's share of towing on the flats.

The start was significantly less hectic than I imagined. With over 500 people registered it has the potential for hairy situations but it wasn't bad at all. The plan was to not get caught up too much in the frenzy and burn out too quick. We found some good groups to get in and just latched onto the back.

I rarely ride in big groups. So was surprised at how amazingly fast you can go with significantly less effort. We were flying at 25+mph and hardly pedaling. Soft pedaling and even braking. We hit the first rest stop in under an hour. And even 4hrs into it we were averaging almost 19mph. When doing training rides alone or with one person we averaged in the 14-15.

The day was just flying by. I'd imagined that it was going to be agony and just seem to take forever but the hours and miles were just ticking by. Over and over we reached checkpoints way faster than expected.

Gatorade and PBJ, and Sportlegs. That was my diet. No real stomach issues at all. I wish I could figure out how to eat less and go to the bathroom less. The heat and the issues that can accompany it had me really scared. I was drinking a lot and had to go to the bathroom alot. In hindsight maybe drank too much.

The heat was forcast into the upper 80s. But we seemed to have dodged a bullet because it really didn't feel that bad at all. In some spots it felt like an oven but thankfully we got some cloud cover and there was some shade.

Somewhere along the way we realized that the goal of 7hrs might actually be attainable. We all reached the bottom of Mountain Lake together as planned. This climb is something else. It really cannot be described until you try it. The meat of it is only 3 miles. But this thing can make or break your time by over an hour. People can literally walk faster than you ride if you are hurting bad.

We all knew that it was every man(woman) for themselves once we hit the bottom. I'm sorry but frienship or marriage can't override this. Everyone has their own speed at which to get up this thing and their own world to enter in order to do it. Trying to go slower than your special speed will hurt more than going faster.

I was flying at the bottom, then somewhere after the first switchback things started to fall apart. My legs were acheing and felt like cramping , the heat started to make my head pulsate. I just wanted to be done. But then I tried to embrace the pain to just relish in taking a chance and going outside the comfort zone. An easy life is unfulling. We're conditioned to take the easy way out sometimes. Most profit for least amount of effort. So here I was pep talking myself up the backside. Whatever works.

Then it happened. I'd taken my last does of Sportlegs in Eggleston about 1hr before with the hopes that they would kick in right about now. They started to kick in and I could feel my legs returning. Everything was still hurting bad, but reaching the top seemed very doable now as compared to just a few minutes earlier.

They add an extra section to the climb every time I do it. You think you are done and then there is one more curve to go. Finally I could hear the loudspeaker. Then came around the last corner and saw all the people up there. They radio your number ahead and the announcer yells off your name.

Our friends had watched our kids all since the night before and they had brough them to the top. Knowing they were going to be there was some serious motivation. I want to be strong and be super dad for them. I wanted them to see me cross the line strong. As I approached on the last straightaway I could see them, clapping and jumping up and down.

My perma grin joker smile turned to a real smile and I hit it hard the last section and even felt a hamstring cramp twinge upon crossing the line. 6:53 or there abouts. It was awesome.

My wife finished a little while later. She was leaning over on her bike and I though she was messing with the number taped on the top tube and wasn't concerned. Until two people had to help her off her bike and support her to the side of the road. She was ok but the last 1/2 mile had taken her over the edge.

There is a chalk mark on the road saying 1 mile to go. This is the hardest 1 mile you can do.

I'm really please. I never imagined I could do better than 7hrs. The key was riding with groups and keeping rest stops short. I'm pretty confident that with similar preparation, and less stopping that faster times are very doable. The fastest do it in 5:30 or so. omg.

In training rides I really hurt myself and rode alone a lot or with just one other person. That helped a lot because today everything felt significantly easier until the end.

-Ed and Liz got married right before the ride. They wore a tuxedo jersey and a veil. And had cans tied to their bikes. I thought the cans were just for show after the ceremony. 8 hrs later they finished at the top with the cans still attached.

-Early on in the ride and ambulance past us on Rt 42. We thought for sure someone had wrecked on the downhill into New Castle because someone wrecks there every year. But we came upon the scene at a benign location on a just a slight downhill roller. A guy was in the ditch getting worked on by the paramedics but we just figured he'd zoned or got cut and ended up on the ditch. Turns out he hit a deer full on at 30+mph. The deer was lodged in the bike frame and couldn't get out.

-Large people on flat sections of road are awesome. I call them meal tickets. The first were a pair of twin towers from Germany. A good 2feet taller than me on the bike. The next was Jerry from Virginia Beach. He pulled us for like 20 miles. We offered to help but it would have been worthless cause he was going so fast. However when the rollers at Maggie came it was all over

-For the first time in 5 trys I missed all the potholes on 604.

-Just because someone is super cut or has defined calves does not mean they can climb

-I'm addicted to Sportlegs. With 2 hrs to go I realized I'd dropped my last two doses. Panic attack. Thankfully we went right by the cars and I grabbed some more

-PBJ and other solid food cause a blood sugar spike. I can feel the lightheadedness hit shortly after eating and then it slowly passes and it's back to normal. Drinking energy drink seems to provide a more even delivery of carbs.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

MOM on tap

Been hard to focus on any mountain biking with the MOM cloud over the head. It's wrong to think of it as a bad thing cause it's a great thing to make me a better cyclist. It's just that typical reaction to something that is beyond your comfort level.

My wife, my friend and I have been working pretty hard towards this goal. The goal being to ride it well. Not just survive but to ride it steady and finish strong on the top and not as walking dead. We finished our last real training for it almost 2 weeks ago. There isn't much you can do from like 10 days out that is going to kick in for the event.

These last few days have consisted of tapering and ramping up a little to get the legs ready. It's always a weird time as any ache/pain seems magnified. I was climbing in and out of manholes yesterday and now my lower back feels weird. Why didn't I just wait till afterwards to do dumb things like that.

The course is pretty difficult. It notorius for some difficult climbs like John's Creek and the Backside of Mountain Lake. However there I think what really makes it killer is the small climbs that just eat away at you all day. Route 42 is a series of rollers which can really you down at the start. Especially when you're all amped up and people are slamming it in 25mph pacelines. The front runners can do that but those that get sucked into the frenzy often pay the price several hours later.

It always seems like a long time to get to New Castle. From there it is a long gradual climb back to 311. By this time the legs are starting to feel it but there is still much more to come. The heat starts to kick in and the steep rollers on the way to Maggie are very tough.

Johns Creek doesn't seem too bad to me, but the Clover Hollow steep hills are killers. They come at 85 miles into the ride and are just a slap in the face. And finally, the first 97 miles are part 1 and then the last 4 are part 2. The backside is an event unto itself especially when hit at the end. There is no daydreaming up this climb it takes serious focus to just get up it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Measuring Saddle Setback

Great tip from the Velo News tech letters

When measuring saddle setback, I've found it much easier to place the bike with the front wheel touching a wall, then measuring from the wall to the tip of the saddle (call this X), then from the wall to the center of the bottom bracket (call this Y). The setback is then X-Y in whatever units you prefer

Monday, May 21, 2007

Heavy wheels for training no more.

I'd have a beat on set of wheels/rubber that I'd ride on in order to save my light stuff for racing. I've now changed my thoughts on this and am going to just run the light wheelset.

One school of thought is that you train on the heavy stuff and then when it's race time you'll feel like a million bucks. I've read that you can accomplish the same thing by just running a bigger gear when using the light stuff. The same net training affect is generated.

Here and here are some threads over at mtbr talking about this.

The problem I've had with the heavy stuff is that it makes the bike ride different. There are subtle and even significant handling changes when going between the wheelsets. The bike moves differently especially when lifting it up and hopping. But also the heavy stuff just feels slow.

Well it is slow. Especially with rotational weight the effct in terms of spin up and acceleration is very noticeable. This really affects gearing choice as well.

The race wheels are Stans Olympic rims coupled with WTB Laserdisc lites (American Classic rebadged). Built by Mike at Oddsandendos.

The hubs are not the most durable but they are easy to overhaul. They are older models that are designed to have a small amount of play which can be disconcerting. But the wheels have been really bomber considering what they go through.

My plan is to put race tires on for race day then switch back to older dogs for training. A little more work but my current opinion is that I need train as close to possible as what will be raced.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Race Sim 5-20-2007

Refer Here for details on course.

Date: 5/20/2007

Time: 8:30am
-Kid came in bed, woke me up at 4:30am so I ate then went back to sleep till 6:30am

Weather Conditions: Ideal. Lower 60s at start mid 70s at end

Trail Conditions: Ideal except for 3 downed trees on first singletrack

Bike Notes:
55psi in rear SPV
28-30psi front and rear
Race wheels with bolt on skewers
Front fork felt a little bouncy

Pre Ride Nutrition:
-Had some Yellow rice/chicken to help add carbs w/o overloading on the sweetness.
-Yogurt/Grapenuts Trail mix
-2 pancakes with PBJ
* this was a little less than I'd normally eat before a race

In ride Nutrition:
-Camel bak
-60oz of Gatorade Endurance (2scoops/20oz)
-Drank about 45oz
-3 sport legs at -50minuts
-5 sport legs at start
-5 sport legs at +50minutes
-5 sportlegs when finished for recovery
-Ensure immediately after for recovery

Start-Finish: 2:36
*6 minutes faster than last years race.

Track A:Interstate to Trillium

Track B: Gap Singletrack
23:55 * fastest time so far*

Track C: Down Royale

Track D:Joe Pye to Sidewinder
24:45 (slight detour around some hikers)

Track E: Down Sidewinder

Track D: 2nd Time
*almost identical to first time. Good pacing.

Track F: Down Beast

Track G: Queene Ane to end of Trillium

Track H: End of Trillium to FS Road


-Bottles are easier to meter drinking, but too hard to deal with on FS. No obvious bonking but did feel lower energy in last 20 minutes and handling was off. No stomach upset even at the end

-Amazed at how high a gear I was turning. Felt easier and faster to stay in middle ring on several grunts that I've always gone to the small ring on. Even the last grunts on the way to the finsh I was able to do them in the middle for the first time ever. No doubt sport legs lets me push this hard. The couple of times I'd gone to the small ring actually felt slower.

It seems to be more a mental roadblock than a physical one. The fear is burning out the legs and bogging down. A couple of times I did bog from being in too high a gear, but more often than not it was better. And the bike felt like it pedaled better in a slightly bigger gear

-Felt overall really strong and steady. Must be from all the road riding. What was lacking was the ability to spin up and also attacking the rollers on the fire road. Had to just get to a good gear and spin up it. Workouts have been neglecting leadouts and other mtb specific work over the last months.

-Dropped some Sport legs had to stop. very slow dismounts over some trees.

-Going down Beast was so fast at the top that my helmet was pushed back from the wind. Scary fast.

-last 30mins were very hard. Just able to go steady unable to even push too hard.

-No glasses, eyes were dry and itchy.

-Back in love with the Azure. Had been flirting with the hardtail for a bit, but Dually built up light is the way for now. Light wheels are key. Giving up on the heavy training wheels.

Race Sim Protocol

Take what puts you on edge and make it routine.

Good advice.

Racing is very different than just going out and riding. Even hard rides don't compare to a race. The bike handles different. The trails you ride everyday turn into a very different animal with 2hrs of redline conditions under your legs.

While no simulation can be like a real race, I try to get as close as possible. These are great opportunities to try out nutrition strategies or bike setup changes w/o having to worry about messing up a result base on the experimentation. These simulations include a start and a finish line, pre-race eating, post race recovery, in race nutrition.. I even try to force a hard race-start effort for the first few minutes.

These take a lot of mental focus because you have no one infront of you to chase and no one breathing down your neck from behind.

My goal is to follow the same race sim route over the next months and time distinct sections in order to track improvement.

Route: Rowdy Dawg Race Course from 2006.

Start: Gravel road adjacent to off shoot fire road
End: Same

Track A: Gap (interstate)
Start: Single track entrace at FS Road
End: Entrance to Trillium Single track.

Track B:Gap singletrack
Start: Left turn off jeep gravel road onto Trillium
End: FS 708

Track C: Down Royale
Start: Wood sign at entrace
End: Intersection with Basin Trail

Track D: Joe Pye all the way to Top of Sidewinder
Start: After crossing creek at Joe Pye
End: Where single track pops out at top of Sidewinder

Track E: Down Sidewinder
Start: Top of Sidewinder
End: Lowest Gulley before climbing out

Track F: Down Beast
Start: Sign at start of trail
End: second or third tree at bottom

Track G: Queene Anne to Gap Trails
Start: Queene Anne and Fire Road
End: Intersection of Trillium and Jeep Road

Track H: End of Trillium to FS road
Start: Triullium and Jeep Road
End: Where Singletrack hits Fire road

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Back on the trainer

Jumped on the trainer this fine Saturday morning. It's ironic. The weather is great, nice and sunny, albeit a little chilly. But I actually wanted to get on the trainer today. It's been a little while since I got in a good measured workout.

In a way it's nice to get a solid workout under the belt in a short amount of time. These types of workouts using the Ergo mode of the trainer allow me to dose efforts such that I'm going (almost) as hard as I can for the duration of a workout. It's like condensing the hard efforts out of a 2-3 hour road ride into 1 hour. Cut out all the fluff.

The core of my trainer workouts these days consists of 3 types of intervals.
-BK's (butt kickers)10-15 minutes alternating 1min at SMSP and 1 min at MSP
-2 and 3 bys with little rest (2 on 1 off or 3 on 1 off

Today was BKs. I love BKs. 1 minute at a hard pace (SMSP). This is the wattage that I'd been doing my 1-2 minute intervals at earlier in the year.

Then after 1 minute instead of easy rest, you go to 1 minute at sustainable pace (MSP). This is the level at which I had been doing my 8-12 minute intervals several months ago.

The idea is to simulate what you see in a mountain bike race. Where you have to go outside your sustainable pace for a technical section, to pass, or especially a steep grunt climb. Since it's a race you just can't soft pedal and go easy, you have to force yourself to go right back into your sustainable pace.

One thing I love about the ergo mode of my trainer. Is that once you set the resistance, it holds it regardless (within reason) of your cadence or gearing. My experience is that either you can do it or your can't. When you can't my legs just sort of hit a wall. It's different on a real bike. You just sort of go slower when you can't hold the desired intensity.

Today's goal was 3x10 BKs. with 5 minutes rest between efforts.

My legs are tired, and I was starting to fail in the SMSP minute around 6minutes in. Instead of just bagging the whole workout, I'd soft pedal for the remainder of the SMSP block and then ramp it up to the MSP and then try to continue from there and bumped the power down by 10W.

It's amazing what a little bit of recovery can do. I've seen this on the road bike where I can blow sky high, then sit in for a few minutes then come back. The problem is that this rarely happens offroad. There is no sitting in.

So much of these workouts is mental. The legs can do amazing things when sufficiently motivated.

I'm not very concerned that the legs aren't going super today. Earlier this week was some hard efforts designed as build up for the MOM. The next few days are going to be painful regardless of what I do be it sitting on the couch or doing planned workouts.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More MOM...

Got in the last MOM training ride. 2x from Newport up the Backside of mountain lake. The reason for this ride is to simulate what it feels like to hit the backside with some tough miles under the legs.

My buddy and I did 2 loops and my wife did one. She is an amazing rider. Only 2 minutes off my climbing time and on my wheel the whole way down. Gonna need to beef of my insecurities before she starts getting faster than me. Either that or take some air out of her tires.

I'm finally confident that we're prepared for this ride. It is just something that I did not want to go into with the 'just finish' mindset. For the time being, I'm over that kind of thing. I've done it before and just barely finished. I've been there walking the backside taking more than an hour and a half to reach the top. Honestly, it just wasn't that much fun, and I didn't feel like a better person for putting myself through it.

This year I want to ride it and have fun knowing that we can finish strong.

Don't let me discourage you though, Take a shot at this sometime, it's an incredible endeavour. I heard they already have 500 pregistered people for the century ride and a few hundered for the 125 miler. That's some cycling passion right there for you.

The focus on this ride has taken away from my XC racing focus. It's not that you can't do both, it's just that it's hard or ME to split hyper focus across more than one area. My training plan is in sort of a flux as well.

I'd had several months all planned out and on paper and I haven't done that for the next few months yet. This has happened in years past around this time of year and it's one component that leads to my losing some focus. The other components are obsessing over some sort of technical issue. Last year it was full suspension bikes, this year it has been over comparing the hardtail to the full suspension. In addition, I'm now focused a little on skills again.

My goal is to refocus after MOM and get a training calendar in place through October. I'm also going to reassess goals and get them down on paper. Hopefully this will help center things and get me focused. It's hard to stay focused on one thing and it's probably better to include these ebbs and flows into my life in order to keep things in perspective.

Friday, May 11, 2007

MOM training ride notes

Did the first 85 miles of the MOM course with John.
Hot with temps in the upper 80s.

This course eats away at you in small bites and then takes some big chunks out of you with John's Creek Mountain and the grunt climbs on clover Hollow. The last climb up Mountain Lake pretty muchs chews you up and spits you out. On this ride we did everything except the last 13 miles.

The profile of the course is very deceiving. The bulk of the elevation gain occurs in small chunks throughout the course.

2 pbj sandwiches
1 cliff bar
+50oz water in camel back.

At store spent 8$ on food. More than what it costs to feed the family off the dollar menu at Wendy's.
60oz water
50 oz gatorade
2 packages of Brown sugar poptarts
Payday bar

Ate/drank almost everything priot to getting to the car before the Clover hollow loop (only had the pop tarts left)

On the clover hollow loop had almost 2 small bottles of Energy drink.

Just riding along wasn't too bad. But with Massanutten on my mind I hit the Johns creek climb really really hard. The legs felt like they were going to cramp so my premise was that the farther up I make it before the cramp, the less walking I'd have to do.

I was so close to hurling when I got to the top. The goal was to create the same feeling that I have in mountain bike races. At the top however, I was questioning this move as there was still a significant amount of riding to go including the meat grinders of clover hollow.

On 42 I was able to recover while the diesel pulled and the wind wasn't too bad. Clover hollow was a last opportunity to really hurt. Again the goal was to hit it really hard and just pay the price later. I never seem to train harder than I race. Today was about as close as I've gotten to changing that.

One thing I realized is that this ride is going to be hard but if I don't throw down any hero cards like today except for the last climb than it won't be too bad. As long as I drink enough and eat enough and don't go hard except at the end we'll be ok.

Also without SportLegs I would be in a ditch somewhere. 5 at hour 1.5hrs, 5 at 2.5hrs, 3 (dropped 2 while riding AGHHH) at 3.5hrs. Another 5 at 4.5hrs. 3 after I finished the ride for recovery. They may put me in the poor house but at least I'll go without cramping.

The legs had that tender feeling from the lock up cramps that occured last weekend at Douthat. But they didn't cramp. The first hour was difficult to get going but after that I felt pretty darn good.

My speculation is that I'm on the upswing of a recovery cycle. About 11 days prior I'd had a hard road ride followed by a hard interval workout. I think that I might not have been fully recovered when at the Douthat Race.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Douthat Race Report

The Middle Mountain Momma was today. You can read my course preview and last years race report for some perspective.

First of all thank you to Kyle and his volunteers for putting on this race. I've said it before and I'll say it again, without promoters, there wouldn't be racing. Also thanks to the presenting shops: East Coasters and Shenandoah Bicycle Company

What an incredible day. The drive up reminded me how beautiful Virginia is. Crystal clear day, sunny with the colors just so vibrant. With the bad luck in weather we've been having at races the sunshine was welcome.

Today I ran the hardtail (except with a Juicy 7 front disc).

Truth be told, I've been having a 'grass-is-greener' dilemma lately between the hardtail and dually. The HT just seems so much faster on the climbs and I broke a timed PR up a hillclimb by over a minute with it. In some other timed runs it didn't seem that much slower on the downhills than the dually either. So I opted to run it today given the amount of climbing: 5000'.

In hindsight it might not have been the best idea, but at this point just can't be sure. The course is really rough and there were many situations where the dually would have been better. The high intensity of racing put the hurt on the legs much sooner than in JRA. So I was feeling every bump in the trail throughout the day. The burning question in my mind is if the fatigue saving qualities of the dually would have allowed me to go faster overall especially at the end. I'm not so sure if it was body fatigue or just plain dead legs towards the end though.

They started the experts off in two waves with the senior big guns going of first and then the Masters (two classes 30-39 and 40+) going next with a minute time gap. In watching the first wave start the first thing that occurred to me was that they looked to be going slow. Nowhere near the typical rocket start of most mountain bike races. I wasn't alone because I heard someone else echo the same sentiment.

When we started, it was the same thing. It was slow. I mean like not fast and almost easy. Finally, Thomas of SBC had enough and sprinted by everyone. Smart move because unlike last year I ended up in a big pile of people when we hit the single track. The first section of single track is pretty technical and some of it was wet. There ended up being some serious bottle necks at the start.

This start pace was really surprising. Next year I think I'll go for the gold just to be able to hit the first section w/o traffic. It's actually easier to have the trail open than to be behind 'truckers' where you get the accordian affect. And have to slow down and then accelerate or get off and walk when you might have been able to ride something.

For one of the first times ever, the beginning section of track felt easy. Unlike years past where I seem to blow up just trying to stay with anyone I was able to stay with the group relatively easily. Even when we got to the big ring single track it seemed like we were going too slow.

When we hit the meat of the climb, I kicked it in and started to pass some people on the climb. I felt like I was climbing really well and just tried to take it steady. In hindsight maybe I was overdoing it a little. On the last section up to the top the terrain changes to loose shale. This proved to be really difficult on the hardtail.

At the top it levels out and turns to big ring singletrack. A group of two passed me like I was standing still and then as it turned down two more passed.

Next year I think I'll shoot for taking it a little easier on the first part of the climb in order to have gas to kick it in where the steep shale starts. And to have the ability to really get on the big ring plateau.

Once on the downhill I was riding pretty well for being on a hardtail and 80mm fork. I let Kenny, a fellow Masters 30-39 Expert by me and followed him around a switch back. He slides out and I promptly run over his hand. In the end he ended up beating me by 20 or 40 seconds or something like that so next time I'm going to run over a wheel or something that will buy me at least a minute.

I'd had to dial out the engagement point on my Juicy 7s because they weren't stopped well. This turned out to be a big mistake because when the engagement point is too far outboard my hands hurt like a mother when one finger braking. This downhill is really long. And my left hand was just on fire. It's amazing I made it down in one piece.

At the road my time was about 1:10. This was 5 minutes faster at this point compared to last year. I took my dose of Sport legs here and immediately realized that I'd mistimed my intake. I'd taken a dose at -50minutes from the start. And then another one right on the start line. These things take about an hour to kick in and last about an hour/dose. So by taking this dose at 1:10 I was going to have a lag period which meant leg cramps for certain.

The climb up Ross Hollow went pretty well. Seemed to be climbing decently. Where it kicks to the right the 1st Place women expert passed me and then I passed her. We hit the trail junction of Mountain Top and Mountain Side with me in the lead. I've never ever cleaned this section in a race or just riding for fun. Like that guy in Water Boy she said "you can do it" and lo and behold I did. Unfortunately a short bit later I slide out on some off camber shale and also stopped her too.. bad form on my part.

I followed her up the steep riding of the next few hills. Without a doubt this rider was one of the best climbers I've ever seen male or female. She cleaned the steep grunts amazingly strong. My legs just reached a point where they wouldn't turn.

The next sections of the ridge went well. Just riding steady and got lulled into downhill mode only to recall that there was more climbing to come before reaching the final downhill. Kenny had caught up to me on the climb. I guess I didn't ride over his hand hard enough. That dude can climb for being a big guy. Once again my braking was off. I'd dialed the engagement back in a little because my hands had hurt so much but now they weren't braking as well. Doh!. Coming around some of the right hand curves twice I was headed directly for a tree w/o much braking. Target fixation took over and I was staring right at the tree. Luckily at the last second I was able to look back on the trail and steer around it but I would have stacked hard had I hit my bar or hit it square on.

The downhilling went very well especially compared to last year. Except at the end, the super fun creek run turned a little harder on the hardtail and shorter fork. My rear tire was skittering more. And then I rode right by the turn to go to the bridge. The creek was up and I took a long time to carry my bike up the steps of the bridge. Last year we took the creek and it was way faster. Regardless of the water level should have done the same this year.

On the other side was some big ring track. My legs were just fried and couldn't get on it very fast. Upon crossing the road the leg cramps started to hit. Over the last few years I've been able to just grit it out and ride through them but they still hurt a lot. The creek crossings on this trail are very slick. On one of them I fell over, and then tried to pick my bike up and then fell over again this time all the way into the creek with my face in the water. Then my legs cramped as I was trying to get up. No joke, this is a nightmare I've had where I fall in a creek with leg cramps and can't get out. The cold water in the face was a good wake up!

Then I tried to ride the next creek crossing and fell over again. Luckily was able to get my foot out of the pedal otherwise it would have been very very nasty with the rocks around me. As I was pickup my bike, my shoulder blade muscles started to lock up cramp. That is a first. I think because of all the row-row-your bike climbing going on today.

Finally we got to the trail junction that takes you back to the finish. By this time it's about 2:25 into it and my goal time of 2:30 was slipping away fast. Robbie came by right about than like a rocket. I couldn't believe how fast we was flying. On and on the trail goes till finally we reach the last downhill.

Ugh it was rough. My hands were on fire, my rear wheel was all over the place there were wet sections. Chain had fallen off to the outside. But was able to pass another fool on a hardtail. A Klein no less, he must have been hating it at this point.

In the end I finished 5th in my class less than a minute off 4th. I'm pretty happy and thought that I'd ridden a lot better than last year. But when I got home and checked last years results my time was 2:40. So 4 minutes faster. This surprised me because I'm riding much stronger than last year, and my perception was that this year was a lot faster.

No matter. Improvement is improvement. The winning experts were in around 2:03. A major goal is to get to 20minute time gap from the winning expert/pro.

I'll be going back to the dually for Massanutten and am going to do some more race simulations to compare the hardtail to the dually so that I can figure out where the grass really is greener. This was a good exercise to go through as I'd all but convinced myself that the hardtail was the way to go overall for me. I really wonder how a 100mm fork full disc hardtail would have fared. I'm so over the rear V brake that I'm forced to run. But this course is just so much trail chatter even compared to Dragon's Back that I speculate the hardtail may have cost me time at the end.

I was hurting afterwards for at least the next 1/2 hour. I probably wasn't sound enough to drive home either as I almost took the wrong exits twice on a route I've done many times.

My wonderful wife had an incredible dinner waiting for me. That hit the spot.

Notes to self
-3 bottles Power bar drink, 2 in frame, 1 in pocket. No bonking, drank a little more than 1bottle/hr
-Redo sport legs to have more overlap in doses
50 min before race, at start line and then at +50mins into it.
-no matter how hard you train it's never enough
-to simulate this course, need to get 2-3 hard hours on the legs and then hit some creek crossings/false flats. and rough downhills.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Douthat Preview

The Middle Mountain Momma held at Douthat State Park is one of the classic Virginia races. It is one of the most anticipated races of the year.

Over the years this race has decimated me, and once again I'm looking to bag a good race here. While it lacks the real technical rocks of Dragon's Back or Massanutten or Rowdy Dawg, it more than makes up for it in sheer volume. This is a pedalling course and it wears you out.

The overwhelming memories of Douthat are of the 99.9% to die for single track. But mountain biking memories are selective, and don't be fooled, this is a rough place. The lower slopes can be very rocky and in some cases old creek beds. There is also a fair amount of just plain Virginia chatter, those embedded rocks and roots.

I'm going to give my perspective on the race course.

The start.
The start is on a flat gravel road. The road only lasts for a few seconds before the group has to funnel down to get through a wooden gate. There is a short grassy field before the wide single track of Blue Suck Trail.

Blue Suck
Blue suck is a rough rough trail. There are a few stream crossings that can be slippery. It starts to get pretty steep with a fair amount of rocks. This start is the classic environment for me to burn all the matches at the beginning. The lead experts are just GONE. I mean, blink your eyes and just gone.

My goal is to just go steady here because it is oh too easy to totally blow up, and if I blow up here well let's just say that it's a long long race still to go.

Blue suck finally comes to a Y and you veer to the left onto Locust Gap

Locust Gap
Locust Gap is a sweet trail. It is big ring single track that runs along the contour line. In a past year I tried to be aggressive and pass here and dropped my front wheel off the edge of the trail and cartwheeled. It took about 5 minutes of non-stop riders before a gap opened up and I could get going again. While it's tempting to try and get around someone here, just wait a few seconds because the real climb is about to start.

Remember the big ring part of this trail, because the end of the race brings you back the other way. And it is certainly not big ring going that direction.

Locust Run will T into the Stony Run Trail and you go Right.

Stony Run
Elevator Going up.

This is the epic climb that Douthat is known for. The first part of the climb isn't too steep but it is chattery. You drop into a creek bed which can be pretty slippery to cross. The other side is very steep so be prepared to hike-a-bike if you slip.

After this steep out of the creek the climb isn't too bad. It is just long. The switchbacks are rideable and I often find that going to one gear higher helps to keep the front wheel down and maintain traction.

My goal for this climb is to just ride steady. Find the sweet spot and kick it up a notch at the switch backs and then return. If possible stay with some one's wheel or get by someone quickly before turning in to a lemming. When chasing someone, I'm going to focus on the trail and look up to check progress occasionally and am not going to focus on the person. When I do that I'll just ending up matching their speed and the gap will never decrease.

Up and Up and Up, finally you come to where you think it should be done, but no. You must veer straight and left and go all the way to the top. The middle mountain trail

Middle Mountain Trail
This is kind of a plateau. It's really fun with brush on both sides of you. It will start to drop down hill slowly and then will really drop down into the Pine Tree Trail and Salt Stump Trail.

What goes up must come down. This is a fast fast downhill, with some steep switchbacks. The upper parts aren't too rough but still there is a lot of chatter and there is some fun off camber combined with leaves. Fun as in really narrow with a sidehill drop off.

The Salt Stump Trail levels out some
but gets more curvy and rough. As you drop down towards the campground it gets even rougher with some rocks.

Road to Ross Hollow

You dump out through a campground and usually there is water passed out here. You ride the road for a little ways to the start of the Ross Camp Trail. It's funny, every year I have started to cramp or at least get a cramp twinge when I hit the road and stand up to hammer.

Ross Camp
This is a very steep climb. Ross camp is more straight. The hardest part is right at another trail junction and then it levels off again.

Leading to the Mountain Side and mountain Top trails are some very steep sections. I'm not sure if it's worth trying to ride them or to just walk them.

Mountain side/top trails
I'm not sure if we are being routed on the Mountain Side Trail or going around to the mountain top trail. If we go to the top it is more climbing. There are some very steep sections that typically turn into a hike-a-bike. I've been specifically practicing my jogging up steep hills with my bike the last few weeks.

These trails are very fun. Combination of side hill climbing and downhilling. Sometimes you start going way down and think that you might be done but then you'll go right back up. At one time the trail kicks to the left going the opposite way of the park and you have wonder if you're off course.

Naturally there is always climbing and some tough switchbacks. One year my legs totally locked up at one of this switchbacks. The kind of lock up where you are brought to tears and are squatted by your bike and cannot move.

Ride some more of Virginia's Finest and finally get to the top of Brush Hollow

Brushy Hollow

Very very fun downhill. Side hill trail then it starts coming down into some gullies. A few switchbacks to concern yourself with. Keep your head up so you don't go blowing through them.

The lower part dumps you through some old creek beds and this is by far my favorite place on the course. It's fast and rocky and has some good curves. It dumps you out the creek with the suspension bridge.

If the water is low enough you can ride across, otherwise you have to hoist your bike up to the bridge and walk across.

You'll ride a very flat but still slightly chatter fire rode section before cross the main entrance road back to the beginning or stony Run Trail

Stony Run back to the Finish
Mentally this is the toughest time in this rice. You think you've made it past the two big climbs and the two big downhills and that you're on the last stretch home. The last few miles are the LONGEST on a mountain bike ever, maybe a second to the ridge on Dragon's Back.

It just goes on and on. The first part of Stony Run is rough with several stream crossings. You then turn on to Locust Gap where you'd come in on so many hours ago when you were full of gusto and power. The terrain creates sort of false flat and you desperately want to be going faster but just can't.

Finally you'll round the corner and the downhill to Blue Suck will start. And as your final prize you get to go down one of the roughest sections of trail. The same one that killed you at the start. Lots of small drops that stream crossing, big rocks...

And finally dumping you back to the field and the staging area.

I'm going to try the hardtail out for this race. An XC dually is an excellent horse for this course given all the chatter and lower rough sections. But lately, I seem to be feeling faster on the hardtail given all the climbing. The dually really didn't help me much on these types of downhills last year so I'm not losing much by going hardtail.

I am concerned that the cumulative fatigue from the constant chatter course will start to wear down during the last section and the run in to the finish is going to be especially rough. Post race fatigue is probably going to be much worse but overall fastest time is the highest priority.

My goal is sub 2:30 but will be prepared for 3+. My classic Modus Operani MO applies. Get to steady state and hold it there. Go outside of it as need to get through techincal sections... Ride the downhills as best as possible in control. Start smart and finish on heart and tears while pinballing all the way the last downhill.

Great article on XC racing

Here is a great newsletter article on XC mountain bike racing (see pages 5-8)

It is one of the best primers on the technical and physical demands of mountain bike racing I've read. It also validates a lot of the training I've been doing with the Morris methods.

XC racing is an incredible combination of cycling disciplines. It requires endurance fitness, top end speed, and power. In addition, it also requires an incredible amount of balance and finesse as well as serious body english. Sometimes you have to float, othertimes you have to throw your whole body into it.

There is also a technical equipment component. You've got to know how to shift, when to shift, how to pedal in rocks and steep climbs. You've got to know how to set up your suspension (Front and rear), tire pressure, tire selection, etc. And be able to fix a lot of it ON the TRAIL.

Finally, XC racing is 'realistic' for many of is in the real world. A 2-3hr event is just more managable in terms of training and doing events. 1 day to get there, race and get back. (This doesn't include the packing/unpacking though) But endurance events like 12-24hrs or 100milers require a significant amount of logistical preparations and also require a day or more to just do the event.

With the demands of jobs and families XC racing is a wonderful venue to push ourselves and achieve some goals. And even if you're working out some childhood issues through racing, it has got to be one of the funnest ways to push yourself.

It's nice to see it coming back and hopefully more people will realize what a wonderful activity it is.