Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pity Party at Falling Creek Bedford County

Today was the VA Derailler Series race at Falling Creek Park in Bedford County


First I want to say how impressed I am with Kenny Palmer and Bedford County. They are really putting a lot into mountain biking and are poised to become an epicenter of mountain biking in this area. Sweet trail, picnic shelter, water misters, high tech water fountains, bathrooms (soon!), a section devoted to stunts and coming soon...a pump track. And a new trail system planned in Montvale.

They have the perfect game plan for developing new riders and a mountain biking community. Fun trail that is both fast to challenge experienced riders but yet still not so over the top technical or so hard as to discourage new riders. Combine this with features that appeal to teens such as a pump track and stunts and you create new mountain bikers. Bikers who will start as beginners and progress to higher levels and then start travelling to more races.

You can tell that they have put an enormous effort into developing their trail system and they devoted budget and manpower to putting on a race. Cheers to that. Mountain Bike racing is such a niche sport we are so priveledged to have people to devote energy and municipalties who believe in it enough to put money into it to create events to go to.

Unfortunately for me it was a bad day on the bike. A berrry berry bad day. But don't think I'm upset. Not in the least. This was the first bad race I've had in like 4 years. Unlike about 10 years ago where every race was just a discouragement. Getting through days like today carries much more weight than a podium I think. These days go into your little bank of experiences and they earn more interest that good days. Finishing in last place when you just want to pack it in is a feather in your cap. Though, it'd be nice to not look like a chief!

Sometimes you don't know if something is working until you break it. And you don't know how to make something better until you do it wrong.

My start was typically slow but I could tell something wasn't right from partway into the first lap. I just couldn't get my legs underneath me and put together anything.

Each successive corner just kept shutting down my momentum and made just that much harder to get back up to speed. Kudos to CP who won the overall today. This course totally rewards a smooth rider who can maintain their momentum through the day. Saving a little bit of time on each corner, each root, each rock is what makes fast times. However, the downside is that having an off day can penalize you exponentially. I just got into this downward spiral.

Not much was going right. My head wasn't there, my heart wasn't there the legs weren't there and not even my trusty Sportlegs helped dig me out of the hole. Kenny even had Sportlegs on the prize table. I thought for sure that would be motivation to get on it.

Even the climbs felt bad, which usually I do ok on. I felt like I was fighting the bike too on the corners.

So out in the middle of the trail I'm having my own little pitty party. Without any guests to commiserate with. There is NO one around as I wasn't making any time on anyone in front of me, and couldn't stay on the wheel of anyone who passed me. So what to do. The only time I saw someone was when the course doubled back on itself. But this was actually worse because you'd think that you might have a shot of catching someone upon seeing them, but they were really about 5-10mins ahead of you.

I had only had a few things going for me. A smile and my food ticket that was waiting for me. And the kind people marshalling the course and handing out water.

There were so many opportunities to just cut the course and head home. I so wanted to just walk across the creek and head to the tent or pack it in at the 1st lap, and the 2nd lap...

Can't just sit here on the trail. I'd never get home then. Not much to do but just man up and ride the 3 laps.

Not exactly sure what went wrong today.Not excuses just trying to find out how to not repeat the mistake.

It was hot . I had been well acclimated to the heat from our earlier heat wave. Bu then we got a run of cool weather and must have lost it. Sometimes the heat can just shut you down, several people I talked to experienced the same kind of total body shutdown. I had goosebumps upon finishing and was definitely dehydrated.

I thought I'd planned a great peak for today but I may have blown it on Poor Mountain earlier this week. That was a great great run and it didn't even feel that hard so maybe I used up my legs w/o really knowing it. But I'll take that run up Poor mountain and put it into my bank as it rocked.

Also I've got a lot on my mind right now and without good focus it is easy to just shut down.

Terrain wise this course wasn't what I normally ride and I have been focusing on hillclimbing lately. It was a phyical course, I feel like I've done 1000 pushups. And my back. oh my back hurts worse than Douthat.

I had a funky eggroll on Wednesday at the deli near Poor Mountain also.... You never know.

So anyway. get out to Bedford and check it out. Thanks Kenny.

Finally I think I've got some sort of mild cold that is in the background.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Poor Mountain recon another 56:35

Poor mountain recon. Either the track is getting faster or I'm getting faster
56:35 today.

Notes-heavier front wheel
-55spv in fork
-mentally distracted today
-cooler temperatures
-5 sport legs taken about 40 minutes before starting

Today the weather was very cool, unlike the past times I've been here. Mentally I haven't been into cycling much over the past two weeks, so my focus and concentration were not at optimal levels today. However I was riding solid. I am coming off a 1 week rest period and just got back on the bike this past Sunday.

My legs didn't feel too snappy but they did feel strong. On today's ride, I just went steady. No hard efforts just solid. My breathing was steady and I never felt over the edge.

The track is definitely getting worn in a little, though the top part had just as much loose gravel and braking bumps as ever. I ran my fork with a little higher SPV today and think it helped. I am thinking that I need to compare with the rigid at one time otherwise I'll keep wondering. Since the road is so much smoother than last year it might be worthwhile.

In looking at my split times today
14:26 to the dirt
32:32 to the turn
9:36 to the top

my biggest time gains were on the last section. Today I could tell that I didn't slow down as much at the start of the last section. Sometimes I've come to a complete stop. The sportlegs had kicked in well before then so I had some solid footing going into the last section.

In addition, because I'd just been riding steady up to that point I had a little reserve in the legs.

In a way I think being mentally distracted a little might have helped in that I just wasn't able to go over my limit too much. This turned out to be a good thing by the end of the road.

I think I'm just getting stronger in general. The last training block had been a tough one and I'm on the upswing from the recovery. The key for me is the legs. If the legs feel good than it doesn't seem to matter how the cardio is doing when riding steady state. My conclusion of my training is that I've got some good sustainable power output. I can go outside this sustainable level a little bit but not much. So I know that I can't really go all out like at race starts. But I can get through a grunt section and then recover quickly and keep going at steady state.

What is missing right now is leg snap. Part of that is coming off a recovery week and part of that is the Sport legs. On this climb I don't need snap but in an XC race I do.

Though I am feeling a little feverish at the moment. I think I've had something waiting in the wings. We'll see

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

nite ride wake up call

I went on a nite ride for the first time in a year last night. After a hard day at work and then an utterly exhausting hour coaching 1st grade soccer no less. Coaching first grade soccer is not something to take lightly. Games are actually excitingly fun, but the practices are agony.

I actually sat down on strike on the grass. Until the kids were ready to listen and practice. This move took them off guard but the calm only lasted miliseconds.

We started riding around 8:45pm. I was already falling asleep by then. But strapping on the lights and heading off into the dark does something to you. My helmet has to be strapped so tight in order ot keep my headlight on that it gives me headache and makes me lightheaded.

All you can see it the light beams from your lights. Get a headlamp if anything so you can look around corners, and then you've got the shadows created by the riders behind you.

We were not out for stroll in the park. None of us wanted to hang out and the riding was done at pretty high intensity. Oftentimes going as fast as the lights would allow. There is a tenseness in the body during this kind of ride. Hyper focus on the headbeam and tight grips leads to some stiff riding. And also loss of bearings At one point we'd turned onto a new trail and I didn't even realize it.

We rode a little less than an hour, which I think is just about right. Enough to have scared yourself plenty, but not enough to tempt fate for that mechanical out in the dark with your batteries dying, and the yeti coming down to feed.

Fun time, though it's time intensive to setup, charge batteries, mount your lights, etc.... but fun nonetheless.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kudus to Ken's Bike (KCNC)

I had posted about my seatpost with a bent part a few weeks agoP1010016

The Seatpost is a KCNC post. KCNC Which stands for Ken's Bike ... makes the best value in weight weenie parts around. They are up there with Ritchey WCS in terms of bang for the buck when looking at weight and cost. I almost got their crankset.

I'd bent a piece on my seatpost from a combination of heavy handed wrenching and putting it in wrong. Ti bolts can creak and my solution was to wrench it tighter.

The community aspect of the Internet shone through when a reader of the BLOG from overseas told me that I need to replace the pin as it might break. He was a dealer and he'd see if he could get me the part. He didn't have the part so he forwarded the issue to KCNC in Taiwan. They emailed me and confirmed the exact part and sent it to me no charge for the part or shipping.

Not the typical customer service you'd expect from an overseas part maker. So now I've got my part and know the proper direction and the proper torque.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

training under duress

This week has been difficult training. Not so much because the rides are any longer or more difficult than usual or at a higher volume, but because I'm on the backside of a strong week last week. I did a great block of 3 days last weekend and I'm definitely still on the mend.

Combine that with just not eating right and it creates a situation where training rides are tough. Especially with the strong rides as the reference point.

On Wed was unable to complete my interval ride and only finished 3/4 of it.

On Thursday I went for a 1hr hard mtb ride. 1hr no big deal, races are 3 hrs. I can do 1 hr. I went at lunch and had eaten in the morning but missed the early snack and then didn't want to eat right before riding.

About 40 mins into it I just shut down. Not the kind of pink spots/white elephant bonk but just no gas in the tank and no legs kind of shut down.

And today, Sat I got in a longer hard road ride. Tried to eat right this morning but just didn't have the stomach to really load up. Hitting it hard, but really didn't have the legs. Just died on the last climb into town. Again just out of juice. Though I was unable to do simple math or comprehend my wife discussing scheduling (soccer practice, martial arts, curriculum night, school picnic...etc) upon arriving home.

Tomorrow will be a shorter mtn bike ride and then it looks like a rest week to recharge.

I don't feel that I'm venturing into the overtraining realm. If I kept this up for another week than maybe, and if I forced myself to finish interval workouts to completion when I know that I am just not going to put the power out than yeah. But I've got so much rest built into the program that I'm not worried.

It's more of a mental type of training effect right now as much as a physical one during these rides. It's about pain tolerance and motivation and knowing that you can get through and willfully making it hurt. This is something I need to work on and just keep trying. But it's not a natural talent like some people have. I've got friends that just won't let a wheel go no matter what regardless of their fitness.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another Poor mtn recon

Went back to Poor mountain today.

Getting better. Another two minute off the time from two weeks ago:

14:37:76 from the start to the start of dirt
33:41:50 to the right turn
9:58:19 to the top.
For a total of 58:17:45

Felt good but still questioning how I did a 56 last year. Maybe with the draft at the beginning and the faster terrain.

The last splits were:
for a total of 1:00:30

So I was slower at the start which makes sense because last time I was drafting off Chris and over did it trying to keep up with him.
Faster on the bulk part of the road
and also faster on the last section. Which is a little surprising because I felt just as bad today as last time.

changes from last time:
-new rear tire, little less tire pressure = much better traction

-had moved saddle up on the rails. Last setting was too far back. Split the difference and set 5mm forward. Much better. Easier to keep leg momentum

-Used light front wheel

-Took 5 sport legs at -8-10 minutes from start

-Temperatures were 20 degrees less

-rain has helped pack down the new filled in sections making them much faster

Changes planned for next time
-put lighter pedals on
-pump up SPV in front fork
-maybe put a 9speed cassette on. Have an 8 speed on there now.
-Take sport legs at -50 minutes.

The climb went real well today. After yesterdays workout thought I'd be blown but felt decent so I must be on a training upswing. The terrain has gotten much faster since the last two times I've been. Much more packed down. I also tried to hold back a little at the start and just stay steady state and save a little juice. At a few rough sections I grabbed a gear and increased cadence and was able to hold momentum through them. I'd go back to an easier gear.

A few times I wasn't able to find just the right gear. I think a 9 speed helps with that by giving more closer dispersion of the gearing making small changes easier. I was bouncing between the middle/small a few times and would rather have been able to stay middle until the end.

The last section of this climb is other wordly. In fact this is like two separate rides. After the right turn I just almost come to a grinding halt. The steepness combined with the braking bumps and the deeper gravel just creates a will sapping monster. It is also more open to the sun and is just an oven compared to the rest of the course. The line of sight is long and straight which really hits your motivation hard.

The key for me is to just get through it. Keep going and just move forward. Today I did notice a distinct point where I was able to start getting the spin back and able to pedal through it. Last time it didn't get any better until the very end.
*** This point occured at about +55 minutes into it. I can't help but think the Sport legs were kicking in here as last time I felt no noticeable let off in the at this point in the climb.

If I've got any advice for someone coming out here who hasn't done it before. Save a little bit of gas for this last section, as it is going to make or break your final time. And do not..DO NOT get all excited when you go through the right turn because of the people cheering. You are NOT done, not even close. And getting a few hard pedal strokes for the crowd right here hurt me last year.

For those who have done the Mountains of Misery road century, this section is equivalant to the last 1.5 miles of this century. You can literally lose 40minutes to 1hr in this section. Yeah, just 1mile long but it can reduce you to crawling at 1mph or less. This last section of Poor mountain can bring you to a walking pace.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

at the edge of a cliff

Did one of the hardest trainer workouts of the year this morning in the basement. For the first time in a while the mental sides was in synch with the phsyical side and was able to complete the workout totally. The last several trainer workouts have been typically cut short.

This Morris kung fu is just good. I'm telling you. Today was a workout that started to pull together two divergent physical systems, both of which are essential for mountain bike racing. The workout combined Leadout intervals with MSP (Maximum sustainable Power)

4 sets of:
-6x0:20 on 0:20 off Leadout intervals
-1min rest
-5min MSP
-no rest immediately into
-6x0:20 on 0:20 off

5 min rest between sets

It took a long time to finish. Had to stop and refill the water bottle with go juice in the middle.

This was a really hard workout, but it is just a great simulation of what happens in mountain bike racing. MSP is race pace. Steady state, but no mountain bike race is a constant grade. There are technical sections, short grunts, passing. All these require you to go outside of the steady state.

The first set of leadouts weren't too bad, then the MSP was actually a welcome relief to the leadouts. I've been really happy with MSP and my steady state the last few weeks. It just feels pretty solid. Though only having MSP isn't the best for MTB racing because it has a tendency to make me feel flat and a little stagnant. With no acceleration, no snap.

But then with no rest going into the second set of leadouts was harsh. The legs were just burning so bad. But I finally am doing what I always 'say' I'm going to do and that is train as harder than a race. It just seems that every race is just a rude awakening and makes me wonder what have I been doing for the last 8 months.

MSP is a neat place. It doable, it's a place where I can be but it's still scary at the same time. Two analogies. One is having to make your way across a really thin ledge. You're back is to the cliff wall. Your feet are firmly on the ledge but your toes are hanging over the edge. It's not a pretty place but you aren't going to fall unless you move too far over the edge. These leadouts right after the MSP are sort of like dangling your foot over the edge, or having to work your way around a rock as you move along the cliff.

Another analogy is standing just out of reach of a bully. He's trying to pummel you but you are just out of harms way. It's not a happy place, in fact I'm shaking in my shoes. But I can stay here for awhile. The leadouts or SMSP intervals that are done in the middle of MSP are like running up to the bully and tagging them then running away back to your 'safer' zone. Do it too much and you're going to get tagged back.

This type of training helps you be able to go outside your MSP and then go right back to it w/o having to slow to a crawl to recover. ..Ideally.