Saturday, October 29, 2005

Review: Off Road to Athens


Finally, finally got my copy of Off Road to Athens. I've been waiting for this for years ever since I heard about it being made. There has never been anything really made before that focuses on Cross Country Racing like this. And the drama surrounding the whole Olympic Selection fiasco was one of those things that you couldn't make up a better story.

This has some of the best footage of XC racing I've seen and does a good job of showing the speed and pain of XC. Which is just so so hard to capture on film. Some of the steepness of the hills still didn't come across but I knew how hard they were just by watching the body position of the riders and how hard they were working.

Although I was a bit disappointed that there was not more racing footage. But they had a story to tell and a limited time to do it.

The story behind the Olympic selection was so compelling and I was on the edge the whole time. Even though I knew most of it already from reading Velonews, etc. it was still presented in rivetting fashion.

I particularly liked the opportunity to see the racers one-on-one and put a personality with the pictures of my heroes. Heroes to me only because they race XC but now true heroes because I got to see them up close and felt closer to them and got an understanding of their focus, perserverance and love of mountain biking. I've met and talked to Jeremiah Bishop and Sue Haywood before. But had never seen much on the other racers other than reading articles or their BLOGs.

I found Alison Dunlap particularly endearing. Todd Wells seemed much younger looking than I thought. Adam Craig was quite mature for his age, though anyone that says "No Worries" is young to me. Shonny and JHK were cool too.

The anguish and stress assoicated with the race to the Olympics was so tense you could feel it. I could feel goosebumps and tears welling up in my eyes during some of the interviews with Sue Haywood and Alison Dunlap. The entire USA Cycling fiasco was so frustrating as an observer I can't imagine what it would be like for a racer. I know how serious I take my 4 or 5 vet sport races I just can't imagine the stress on the racers where every race had to count.

Personally, I agreed with John Tomac's take on how to select an Olympic team. Team coach does it within X amount of time before the games. That way you get the best/strongest at the time of the games. A single race format can get screwed up with mechanicals, crashes, etc and isn't the best indicator. The chasing of points across the globe created a bad environment to race your best.

One note if you are going to watch this with your young children there is a tiny bit of swearing. "Mommy, she said a bad word."

So even if it sucked I'd like it because it is about XC mountain biking. But it was incredibly well done, exciting and compelling. And it just helps to get me more excited about my own racing and helps solidify my love of cycling and mountain biking.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

autopilot lifting

Just lifting now, hardly riding at all. Doesn't bother me. I'd like to ride, but sometimes the less you ride the harder it is to get yourself to get out. It got cold all of a sudden and it's a shock to the system. Stressful at home, stressful at work, don't need to be worrying about not being on the bike, so I'm not. This weekend will be nice and I'll get out.

But I like the lifting right now. Last week of transition. I like the autopilot of it all. Get to the gym, follow the spreadsheet, listen to music. It's not like the weights lift themselves but it is mentally easy. At least for now, next week it will get harder.

It's not like the motivation required to get out for a long road ride in the cold, or the uber motivation required to walk down to the basement for a slog fest interval ride. It's good to take time away so that it makes it all that sweeter when you return. Lots of people say to forget about weights and just to strength training on the bike. Forget that, the last thing I want to be doing right now is 'training' on the bike, there will be enough of that to come. Now just riding would be cool, but I prefer 'training' in the gym right now.

And I have to face the fact that my riding legs are gone. Sure I could get them back under me with a week or two of riding again, but that is not the point right now. But I don't like that the timing has gone on the trail rides. Need to work on that now.

Next is to finish transition and then do my 1rep max estimations then right into the Hypetrophy, which is going to blow the legs sky high. I can already feel them and I'm only doing 4 sets unlike the 6 in Hypetrophy.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Best wishes to Cory

Cory over at Making it Easier Stacked it the other day. Looks to be minimal injuries thankfully

But I love this description:
I nosed in really hard on a fifteen foot gap jump

From what it sounds like this is was a pretty routine trail for a rider of his caliber. It just highlights the relative wide range of skill sets and what is considered easy or hard.

I crash while clipping-in on a gravel parking lot. It's all relative.

Cory had a great comment at a post at Go clipless regarding a guy that STACKED HARD on a major huge gap jump (watch this movie and cringe). Well said from someone that lives/breathes the free ride world. There is no shame in knowing when to walk something.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Off Season Training- Part 6: SMSP Intervals

This is part 6 in a series of how I've been training on the Morris Plan

So we just finished a block of Aerobic Endurance (+ some sprinting/Muscle Endurance work) and a week of rest.

Now comes what I consider the definitive cornerstone of this training program. The SMSP (Supermaximum Sustainable Intervals)

All the phases are important and each one build upon the previous to create a foundation to step to the next. But if there is one phase that is most important I'd consider it this one. It puts hair on your chest

-The other phases are all doable, in that your strength training is keyed off your 1rep max, and the aerobc phase is all reasonably doable for any somewhat experienced athlete. But in this phase you begin to creep up on the limits of your capabilties, and you have to develop a keen understanding of your body and what your ability to work and more imortantly recover is. This phase helps to empower you and give you some taste of accomplishing somethinig with each succesful interval, but it also serves up some good 'ol humble pie:

When you think you are ready for the next day and you just can't do it. Sometimes you have to know when to fold them. Other days you go for the gold and push as hard as you can with the knowledge that you won't be able to complete it all. And that is where experience and knowing your body and knowing your end all goals comes in.

-It introduces you to pain, and is the stepping stone to begining to feel comfortable with the pain and even begin to embrace it.

If there is one image that defines this phase it would be Mr.T as Clubber Lang.
"What's your predictioin for the fight, Clubber" --"Pain"

And here is a good image to help you get a feel if you are doing them right:

Coming to this phase after the Aerobic Endurance phase is a dramatic paradigm shift.
You go from 3-4 hrs in the saddle, or for some of you 5-6. To under an hour for these intervals. At first you scoff at the low volume till you get into it, then you curse.

These intervals range from 1-4minutes, and are performed at 105%+ of your MSPO. But basically you try to do them at an intensity that you can maintain for the entire workout.

The idea behind them is to get your body used to working well beyond what it can tolerate for a long sustained effort. And the speculation that we aren't dying in the races because we lack volume of riding but are dying because we lack the ability to tolerat the volume of high intensity efforts seen in a race. These intervals allow you to accomplish 15-30mins (or whatever works for you) of really high intensity work

On the Macro level we are doing a 3 week block of this.

On the Micro level you are doing blocks of successive days but where you cut the length of the interval. The idea here is to allow you to complete another session at the same power as the previous day.

Here is a typical micro block day-to-day

Day Schedule
1 4min intervals
2 2min intervals
3 off
4 1hr zone 2
5 4min intervals
6 3min intervals
7 1min interavals
8 easy/off
9 easy/off
10 1hr zone 2

Recall from the discussion on intervals that there are several variables that need to be tuned to your individual situation.

In this phase the main ones are the TOTAL VOLUME of on time, and the rest time. Typically Work time=rest time at first. Later in the year you might want to try Work=1/2 rest where you create a situation where you are not fully recovered for the next interval.

For total volume it depends on your abilty to tolerate the work. And will require some experimentation. Just as a guideline.

As a vet sport I was starting at total ON time of 10-14minutes and working up to 20-24 minutes.

Here are some examples. Again these are just EXAMPLES. We are all individuals and you will need to figure out what works for you.

3 sets 5x1 on 1 off w/3 mins rest between sets
2 sets 7x1 on 2 off w/3 mins rest between sets

Notice in the above block that the second day you get mins off after 1 min on. This is to allow you the ability to complete the interval at the same power as the day before.

Later in the Macro block you might do something like this:

2 sets 6x2 on 2 off w/5 mins rest between sets
3 sets 7x1 on 1 off w/5 mins rest between sets
2 sets 5x1 on 2 off w/5 mins rest between sets

During this phase my workouts lasted like 50 mins or so on a trainer including warm up and cool down. But felt like utter complete hell afterwards. Recovery drink a must. Food wouldn't go down for at least another hour.

Many a time I just could not do the workout at the prescrbed power level. It was like hitting a wall. Here is where discretion becomes the better part of valor. Just walk away sometimes. Rest some more.

This year I am actually goinig to INCREASE the power on a successive day with the understandinig that I KNOW I will not be able to complete the full interval, and just see how far I can get.

But I know earlier on in the phase I will not be able to finish a workout and I am ok with just spinning it out and living to fight another day. I know that I don't have the best ability to recover and it takes me some time to get used to these intervals.

After this phase I do a rest week and them move to longer /lower intensity intervals.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Off Season Training: Part 5-Recovery Weeks

This is part 5 in a series of how I've been training on the Morris Plan

Every 3 weeks now I do a planned recovery week. Sometimes I might do 2 weeks ON followed by a 5 day recovery if I find that I just can't tolerate 3 weeks blocks.

What is recovery? Recovery is where you get stronger. You don't get strong on hard rides. You get torn down. Your body heals and then supercompensates and then you come back stronger.

It always kills me when someone is getting ready for a race and is doing a lot of hard riding a few days before the race in preparation. It's not till after the hard riding the you get stronger.

You just can't slam yourself and expect to get better w/o some built in rest time.

Rest can mean different things. Laying on the couch is a good example. Or it can mean some 1 hr easy easy spins. But there is a downside to rest too. The factory starts to shut down. The cobwebs start to add up

I've found that for each day I take totally off the bike, it takes at least 1-2 full days to get the legs back underneath me. But given regular everyday life, it works out to just take time off the bike and then know that it is going to take even more time for the legs to come back , but that they will come back and they will come back on ready to rock.

Here is a typical recovery period. Again it will be different for every individual. For a tour rider the recovery rides could be 4 hrs. For me it is 50mins on the trainer or even taking a walk around the block.
Notice the 5x1 min intervals at SMSP. Those are done at a high power setting. These help your legs keep some of that snap and keep the pipes primed. One set of 5x1 isn't going to kill you and it will help you when you start the next training block.

The 1-2 hr rides during this phase are done at Zone 1-2.

Here are the zones which are based on a % of your sustainable power or your sustainable power heart rate

Zone 1: 65%-75%
Zone 2: 76-85
Zone 3: 86-95
Zone 4: 96-105
Zone 5: > 105%

One thing I've found interesting is that during this recovery phase the Zone 2 rides actually hurt a little. It is harder than I really want to be going, but in the relative scheme of things it is pretty low intensity compared to what has been done in the regular training block.

It is good that I have to force myself to do them in Zone 2 because it helps keeps the legs from shutting down too much during the recovery phase. If I wasn't watching the power output on the trainer, I'd probably be doing them at Zone (-)10 which yes would help my recovery but would also contribute to the dull legs when I start the next phase.

Off season training: Part 4- Aerobic Endurance +

This is part 4 in a series of how I've been training on the Morris Plan

Ok to recap:

Off season training Part 1 - Intro
Part 2 Macro View
Part 3 - Strength Training
Primer on Intervals

So at this point we've just finished our Power Phase in the weight room. And we are going to an endurance phase
As part of that phase we've been lifting lower weights at higher speed and started to get back on the bike and also do some sprint intervals to begin transitioning all that weight room strength into cycling specific strength.

Now Comes Aerobic Endurance. I added the (+) to the title because there is a little more here than just LSD (long steady distance) I always think of the movie Escape from the Planet of the Apes when Zeera called champagne Grape Juice +. But I digress.

This phase is what a lot of people think about when they think Off season. Long easy rides, never taking it out of the little ring. Some programs I've seen call for 3-4 months of this type of riding. This program calls for 3 weeks in this specific phase. That doesn't mean when you aren't ever going to be doing some long rides later in the year. Because if your races are X distance, then during the year you are going to be doing rides that distance and at race intensity.

But the actual LSD riding in this program is only 3 weeks. Which I like cause I just don't have the time or patience for 3 months of long riding. And the simple fact is to race mountian bikes at the Vet Sport level for 1.5-2.5 (maybe 3 hrs) I don't need lots of 4 hour easy road rides.

How long you need to ride depends on your events. Cat 1-2 are going to probably need some 6hr rides in there. 3-4 maybe 4-5hr. For me at vet sport mountain bike racing maybe 3-4hr.

The (+) part is making sure to do some sprinting, some High resistance-low cadence intervals (Muscle Endurance), and leadout intervals( like sprints but instead of 10 secs something like 20-30sec)

Why? Well you just spent all that time in the weight room making some serious strength, and if you only do LSD it's all going fade away. By doing the sprints, ME and Leadouts you are transitioning that strength to cycling specific power while at the same time doing some aerobic to get your body ready for the hard intervals to come.

So an example 10 schedule might look like this (*taken right from Dave's book):

Notice the 'blocks'. Successive days but where the duration is cut from day to day but intensity stays the same, then followed by rest.

Also notice how you do sprints at the start of a long ride one day and then ME work at the end of a ride the next day. This lets you do the hardest stuff when you are fresh, and then really work the legs for the ME stuff when they are already tired.

I've found this to work really well and be time efficient. The sprints are hard, really hard. But are doable when fresh. The ME work I love and is also doable when the legs are a little tired.

Of course, this phase always seems to roll around when the weather is the worst here in Virginia. And I always end up skimping on the long rides. Hopefully I can stick with it this year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Part 3b: How to do intervals

This is part 3b in a series of how I've been training on the Morris Plan

Before I continue with the summary of Off season training I wanted to discuss intervals.

The dreaded intervals. When you do intervals you have graduated from the Hey Man I just ride for fun, to real training. Lots of people avoid them because they don't want to be considered as training. But in practice they are probably doing intervals on every group ride they go on. Ride hard, regroup, ride hard, regroup, etc.

The basic premise behind intervals is that you can accomplish more total work by going hard and then resting, than if you just rode continuously. And by riding at an intensity than is harder than you can maintain for a significant length of time you are 'training' your body to be able to increase how hard it can go.

Some guy said wrt to training and time trialing :
If you never go 30mph, well you'll never go 30mph

There are several variables in intervals than can be manipulated to give you a desired affect.

# of sets
# of reps
Time ON
Time OFF-recovery
Recovery Time between sets
the Intensity at which the interval is done.

For example
3 reps of
5 x 1min ON - 1min OFF
5 minutes between sets
at X intensity.

How you manipulate those variables is up to you. For example, mountain bike racing has lots of high intensity efforts followed by inadequate rest. So one way of simulating this, is to take an interval like 2min ON, 2min OFF that you might have been doing earlier in the year and change it to 2min ON, 1 Min OFF, but try and do it at the same intensity.

Frank Overton a cycling coach has a article on interval training at his web site.

The funadmental rule is: Go as hard as you can BUT only as hard as you can maintain for the duration of your entire interval workout.

So the intensity at which you do 5x1min is going to be significantly higher than what you'd do 2x20min at.

Graphically it looks like this:

Notice that the correct way looks like a square wave, and the incorrect way has a huge peak at the beginning. Now picture the typical blow up in cycling and you see the intensity drop dramatically towards the end of the interval.

TOTAL WORK can be defined as the area under the curve. And you have more total work when you do it like a square wave.

So the big question now is HOW DO YOU MEASURE INTENSITY.

Power measurement rules for this and is taking the cycling world by storm. So if you've got the cash for a SRM,

Power Tap

or other on bike power measuring device well then you are golden.

I think it is easier to concentrate on an interval on an indoor trainer anyway. So there are several trainers that provide an output power measurement ( I just saw some new ones at Nashbar even), and there are a few that are considered ERGO trainers that actually hold the power settings regardless of your cadence or gearing.

The computrainer

is the gold standard with regards to ergo trainers, it also costs a lot. I'm more concerned with the power/ergo ability than all the bells and whistles so you can get a lower model or an older model to save some $. I use a Tacx FLOW

I wrote a review of the Tacx Flow several months ago.

The beauty of an ERGO trainer is the set/forget method of doing an interval. Set the power, put your head down and pedal. With a non ergo trainer, you've got to be watching the ouput and you'll always be above/below and it just requires more focus on that than on acutally riding to puke level.

Ok so if you don't have an ergo trainer or a trainer that measures actual wattage now what? A lot of the good trainers like Kurt Kurt Kinetic, 1Up, Cycleops, etc will provide you with a power curve. So at a set cadence and velocity you will know what the power is. Again it requires some more concentration to maintain constant velocity/cadence. And you will need a rear wheel sensor/computer most likely.

But the premise is that constant grade and constant velocity=constant power.

So another thing you can do is to find a hill that is a constant grade, or a road that is more/less flat and ride a constant velocity using you bike computer.

So what about Hear rate. HR is good, but there is a lag time that really screws up your intervals, especially short ones. It could take more than a minute for your HR to get to stabilize even though you have been riding at the correct power setting for that minute. The tendency is to totally over shoot the proper intensity in the hopes of getting your HR to the target zone as soon as possible.

One other option is that some of those uncomfortable bikes at they gym are actually ergo trainers or have a power output

Before I got my trainer, I used to take my pedals to the gym and remove the pedals on the life cycle and put my SPDs on and do my intervals.

And the old standby is still Perceived Exertion. Get a feel for what the intensity level should be and hold it. Invariably it always feels easier at the beginning than at the end, so remember that.

So that's my take on intervals.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Notes to self

For resitance training

2weeks hypertrophy
2weeks strength
-retest 1 rep max
2weeks hypetrophy
2weeks strength

then power phase

In SMSP phase
1)increase total work volume compared to last year
2)do some sessions where power is set 3-4% higher than the highest typically performed in interval and just hold it as long as possible
-example. 2min interval hold for 1min 30-45seconds then rest for 3. next rep do it again hold as long as possible, don't worry if can't make 2min.

In MSP phase
-instead of 1x12, do 2x6 or 3x4 at higher power output but with some rest. So total work volume is same, but total work is higher

Race sim rides:
Still missing the high race intensity.
-Start with some leadout and SMSP intervals, then continue ride like it was a race
-Or do some road work with Leadout followed by SMSP, and repeat until fried.

-On long courses with adequate room to pass and course knowledge, then let the start go and settle into the right pace.
-Better to go at slower pace and NOT cramp than it is to go at higher pace and cramp with 1/2hr to go.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Off Season Training Pt3: Strength Training

This is part 3 in a series of how I've been training on the Morris Plan

1)Resistance Training

There is a huge amount of debate over the effectiveness of weight room training for cycling. Many say that you can accomplish the same goals by doing low cadence/high resistance intervals, or single speeding. And if it was ONLY weight room strength that was an indicator to cycling success than Yuri Gregogov and a bunch of other eastern bloc power lifters would be on top of NORBA podiums.

The real key here is taking strength gains from the weight room and turning them into cycling specific gains by doing things like sprints, lead out intervals and low cadence/high resistance (What Dave calls Muscle Endurance Intervals). But the intense work with the weights is what provides your muscles with that underlying strength which the high resistance cycling can turn into pure cycling power. At least that is what I believe

Especially given my other responsibilities, I think it makes efficient use of time. It is easier to do as the weather gets bad and darker earlier.

In addition there are other benefits. Cycling is notorious its relation to osteoporosis.

I have bird wrists. My 95lbs wife has wrists that are bigger than mine. I am lactose intolerant. So don't drink a lot of dairy, and I am not that good about taking supplements. And I don't do much cross training due to time. So the few months in the weight room are good for my battle against osteoporosis.

Lifting is also one of those things that should be done as you grow older. For life. It's just good for you to balance things out.

And finally, I just like it. Those several weeks in the weight room are a great change. I like putting the mp3 player on and doing my thing. I've been lifting since high school when it was the first thing that I ever did to reverse my non-athletic, pudgy lifestyle.

Oh yeah, the first thing a lot of people think about wrt to strength training and cycling is weight gain and turning into a body builder.

Forget about it. A cycling specific strength program is NOT going to turn you into arnold and you are not going to be dragging an extra 10 lbs up the hills. Besides, if you are mountain biking you definitely need the upper body work.

Also it is a hard pill to swallow, but during the lifting your riding is going to suffer. You are definitely not going to be riding like you were in August. This is hard if you group ride with people who ride at a high intensity all year long, or who are still racing cross or something. Your legs will feel dead and wooden. It won't be until you get into the power phase when you start converting over to cycling specific strength when they start to come around a little.

*If you are following the Dave Morris Book, the strength training section is hard to follow and a little confusing. I put it all down into an excel spreadsheet and it makes following it A LOT easier. If you want a copy just email me at I've sent this thing from California to Eastern Europe and everyone has liked it. *Note I am not responsible if you hurt yourself.

I am just going to go over the plan in general here, refer to the book for details and more instructions on the lifts.

Also there are other periodized cycling specific strength plans out there. Here is one at Spokepost 8 part article on strength training to compare to.

The general plan is
-Increase size of muscle fibers
-Make muscle fibers stronger
-Training nervous system through lifting
-Increase muscle power
-Transition muscle power to cycling specific power
-And then we are on the bike and will try to maintain power gains

The exercises:
There are only a few lifts done. Which is great because it cuts down on time. There is also stretching, that I always skimp on, and core work that I also skimp on to my detriment:

Finding your 1 rep maximum
The weights your throw down in this program are calculated from a 1 rep maximum that you determine after the prep phase. I personally don't like doing a true 1 rep maximum. It requires a spotter, and on things like squat it scares the hell out of me. What I typically do is calculate 1 rep max by multiplying a coefficient #
X set of 4 or 5. It isn't as accurate, and I do tinker with the weights during the course of the lifting (upping or lowering them) often. But it is a starting point.

I usually do a warm up set with light weight for each exercise

Stiff Legged Dead Lift

***NOTE this lift does not follow the same reps/sets in the strength and power phases and 1 rep max.**** Typically I do 3sets of 10 with it and don't ever go too heavy, but I do increase weight over time. I think it has helped me significantly with minimizing lower back pain while climbing. It also makes picking up groceries and children easier.

Back Squat
-Ah the KING of cycling lifting.

I wear a belt except in the prep phase. I try to go till hamstrings are // to the ground. But do have a hard time keeping proper form when the weights get heavy.

In the power phase it is fun and you get some great looks from the other people in the gym, cause you actually jump off the ground with the bar/weights on your shoulder.

Incline Dumbell press

Yup I was doing sets with 20pounders the other day. Everyone was crowded around me, "You're making some big gains man"

Incline leg press

I love this one, because when you get into the strength phase you can really start loading on the plates. Sometimes I am putting 4-5 plates on each side. That does get me some looks for real because I am 135lbs and it takes like 5 minutes to unload the machine when you're done.

Go down to 90 degrees and then back up
Feet shoulder width apart
Avoid locking knees. Oh yeah.. been there done that. oooooh. Avoid that.

Lat Pull

Hamstring curl

-align axis of rotation with your knee
-adjust pad to st low on legs near ankles
-go till pad touches hamstrings

The phases

Length 3 weeks:

-Easy lifting. 1st week 2 sets of 8, 2nd week sets of 3, 3rd week sets of 4, gradually increasing weight. Here is what my prep looks like right now:

Just jumping straight into the next phase is going to cripple you. My hamstrings were so soar after the first day of dead lifting just the bar. And my chest was hurting after doing sets with 20lb dumbbells. Don't skimp and rush this. Just do it and it will make everything that comes after MUCH better.

Length 2-4 weeks
-4x a week (2 heavy days 2 light days)
-6 sets (1,2 at 65% 1RM, 3,4 at 70, 5,6 at 75)
-10 to 12 reps
-Upper body does 2 days/week.

Purpose- build muscle mass. yeah yeah, don't worry you are not going to look like arnold.

Don't even bother riding other than spinning around or commuting. This phase WORKS your legs hard. Riding is just going to bum you out.

3) Strength
-2 weeks
-2x week (1 heavy, 1 light)
-4 sets. 6 reps
-working from 70% all the way to 100%

This phase rules. Cause it SOOO amazing to be throwing down 2-3 reps of 100% of your original 1 rep max in such short a time.

4) Power
From what I read, strength gains are speed specific. Here is where you want to start doing lifts faster to transition into cycling specific speeds.
-2 weeks
-3x a week (1 heavy day 1 light day)
-1 day of sprint intervals
-can start including some longer rides in
-8,6,4,3 reps
-45-60% 1RM

That's it, next we'll see how to transition this stuff over to real cycling power


So we are talking
3 weeks prep
4 weeks hypertrophy
2 weeks strength
2 weeks power
for a total of 11weeks in the gym. And only about 4 of those your riding should be cut down, during strenght, power and prep if you have the time to ride you can.

After this I rarely go into the gym at all. I'd probably do better with my ab work and stretching if I went there just for that purpose though.

And don't expect your legs to all of a sudden have super human abilities. It really takes me well into April and May to truly feel the benefit of the weights.

For me, my main limiter is my legs. You've seen it time and time again in my race reports. Cardio isn't an issue here in a 2-3hr mountain bike race. It's always my legs . The high intensity efforts just destroy them. I'm obviously not pacing properly either but the legs is where I need the most work.

Off Season Training Pt2: Macro View

This is part 2 in a series of how I've been training on the Morris Plan

So the main phases of the off season training are:
-Resistance Training
-Aerobic Endurance

I'll go into more detail on each phase, but this is what it is going to look like in general from the top down monthly view. It never works out like this but it is good to have a plan I guess.


Off season training Pt1: Intro

This is part 1 in a series of how I've been training on the Morris Plan

I'm going to write a series of posts about my training during the off season. This is part 1:

Introduction/basic concepts

***Big Note; I am not a coach. I am not a excercise physilogist. I did not stay in a Holiday Inn last night. Much of the things I'll talk about are just paraphrases and parroting from the books and coaches I follow. But I have been riding/training for many years, and know my body, and am more talking about my specific experiences under this kind of training. The level at which I'm riding as it relates to limited # of hours trained combined with enormous stresses of being married, with children, holding a full time job, being a home owner, and not being blessed with the genes of Lance says to me that something is working.

Why Train in the 1st place
Well I am racing and want to race as well as I can, so that is that. Want to do well? Well gotta work at it. Sure, lots of people can just ride for fun and race well. But read the title of this Blog. Team MWC, FTJ, NGT. If I want to do well I gotta train.

But for many, racing just isn't your thing. But regardless of racing, I think one thing is true across the board. There is nothing as much fun as riding well, and riding strong. And I think you can incorporate some of these training philosophies into your riding for fun and you will get better and faster, and whether you admit it or not, you'll like it.

Also you may not believe it, but there is a sick fun

to the hard intervals. Completing each one and each session is like it's own short term goal. And every success is positive mojo to keep going another day.

The Morris Way
This will be the Third Full Season that I'll be following the Morris plan as outlined in his book:

I've also gotten some loose coaching from him in the form of some generic schedules and phone consultations. The book is interesting. It is very small, but there are a lot of principles in it, that for me took several readings to fully absorb and understand. Don't expect a cookie cutter plan from it either. What is presented is more of a general framework. It takes a lot of thought to figure out how to take the frame work presented and tailor it to your specifics:
-Type of races
-Level of racing
-Time commitments
-Ability to recover
-How much work you can endure
-when you races are..etc.etc.etc.

And I've loosely followed some of the training philosophies for several years prior. But this past year I've really felt like I was able to take the previous year and build upon it and keep take another step up that staircase. Which to me is as important as any race results I got this year.

Four Phases to the Off season
There are 4 main phases in this off season training program:
1) Resistance Training
2) Aerobic Endurance
3) Supermaximum Sustainable Power Intervals (PAINFUL)
4) Maximum Sustainable Power Intervals

I like the different phases. Each phase is sort of like when you are raising a child:

During each phase there are some good things and there are some real pain in the ass things. And during each phase you work hard but are always looking forward to the next phase, and when the next phase comes you wonder where the time went.

The BLOCK TRAINING philosophy. One thing that underlies the training I do is block training. On the micro level is :3days on, 2 days off, 2 days on 1 day off. Or something similar. A lot of people say that you shouldn't do back to back interval sessions. And that you need a rest or easy day in between. Not here. Even in the strength training I do some back to back days, but you decrease some duration the second day. I think this philosophy has been key to my improvement.

For someone who doesn't want to 'train' with intervals, etc. Do what I did when I had my first child. I decided to just ride for fun and ride to smell the roses. just enjoy being outside, just enjoy being on the lla.
What a load of crap. You try riding on Brush Mountain when you are out of shape and you tell me how much fun it is. Let's just say that I was not having a fun time. Pieces of my lung were being ejected on the trail. I couldn't fly on the single track, and my skills were going to heck because there was no fitness there. I wasn't racing or even had thoughts of racing. But I was not riding at what I call "The speed of fun" There is a certain fitness minimum needed where you can really have fun on the trail. Where you can hold your momentum on the single track rollers, and climb something without certain death.

So I started doing some blocks.
day 1: 1.5hrs as hard as I could
day 2: 1 hr as hard as I could
day 3: 1/2hr as hard as I could
Day 4 off
Day 5 off
Day 6 easy
day 7 repeat

Something like that. And within a month or so the speed of fun was attainable and I was happy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Night Riding

Went out last night for the first time in like 4 years or so. Totally forgot a few things.

I made John run my home made lights


They worked fairly well. Though I think we should put them closer together. Enough light to have fun. But good thing he had a helmet mount light to. Thanks to Matthew for helping me scrounge a battery for it.

I totally forgot how tight you have to keep your helmet straps if you have a helmet mount light. I forgot how fast everything seems even though we were going so slow compared to the day. We went down this really straightforward downhill, and I was trying to keep John in my lights and I was going fast enough to get scared.

The flat light just removes all contrast.

I've ridden these trails for more than a decade, yet so many times I wasn't sure where I was until we came upon larger landmarks. You are just so focused on your beam of light, your connection to the world that I just lose all grasp of where we are on the trail.

I found that I was taking turns much wider than in the day, because we can see the turn point and turn sooner, but in the night I'd see a tree then turn around it, and by that time it is too late, and I'd be coming out of turns way to wide.

Also hitting things I'd never hit in the day, roots, puddles, dips, etc. Timing is all off.

Lots of fun though. Will definitely try to keep it up.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

2004 Hollowpoint Review

This is a review of the 2004 Iron Horse Hollowpoint

I've been a hardtail rider for over 15 years. This year I finally decided to give full suspension a shot. My emphasis is XC/XC race. Thought the trails I ride (SW Virginia)such as
Brush Mountain Poverty Creek are anything but buffed singletrack. These are the epitome of what the marketing term Aggressive XC is.

On practically a whim I bought a 2004 Salsa Caballero.
This was an extremely light (5.5lbs frame/shock) Scandium frame with 4" of rear suspension. It was a great introduction to FS for XC but I was disappointed with the rear bob. The rear bob felt like I was being robbed of some power and it bugged me. Sold it shortly after.

But having been enlightened to Full suspension I searched for my next FS frame. This time I spent significantly more time researching the forums on online reviews. I spent hours researching discussion forums such as Mountain Bike Review and Ride Monkey. When you peruse the forums you have got to be a little careful to take everything you read with a grain of salt. Any posts with "heh, heh, or 'prolly' should be disregarded as a 15 year old, and one should look for patterns in posts and not for those absolute "oh this is the best bike every built", or "this bike sucks, I have no explanation why, it just sucks". And people who post on the forums are just passionate people. Especially in the
Manufacturer Forums.

After reading the forums several brands came to the forefront as being the best XC race frames. Turner and Titus were among the top contenders. Of course those are also boutique builders with price tags of $1000-$2k for a frame set alone, even used the prices are fairly high. I'm cheap, so these were out of the question for the time being.

One brand that really piqued my interest and came up over and over as a great pedaling bike was Iron Horse They had a great reputation on the boards for customer service, great value for the $, actually posting on the boards, and for licensing the DW Link suspension design developed by Dave Weagle. And the posters on the Iron Horse Forum were helpful, and passionate about the brand really believing in the design and the company.

I read every single web page that google could find on the DW-link. Even cached pages such as this Rider reviews of DW link that is no longer accessible. Also two very major independent boutique builders: Ibis and IF chose the DW link as the suspension system for their only full suspension designs.

I was struck by a few things about Dave Weagle.
1) He himself posts on the mtbr and other forums under the name _dw

This carries enormous weight to me. How many engineers do you think Cannondale or Specialized have? How many of them post on the boards. We have discussed before the upside/downside of BLOGS and forums with regard to bicycle marketing. But it just carries a lot of weight with me that the designer of this suspension systems posts on the forums, a place where you take your life in your own hands to be prey for the stupid and passionate idiots of the world.

2) I liked a lot of the things he said in interviews:Descent World interview
Pink Bike Interview

Most importantly he doesn't hype the suspension as the greatest thing since sliced bread. But places the decision squarely in the hands of the consumer by saying that We will decide what works and doesn't work. That's right, power to the people.

Th DW Link suspension design has a reputation for being one of the most efficient peddlers out there

Which fit the criteria I was looking for
1) Efficient pedaling
2) good value
3) Not too heavy
4) 3.5-4" of rear travel

The Hollowpoint is a real interesting bike. It was designed to do double duty as an XC race and Trail bike. The linkages are adjustable from 3.75" to 4.5", and forks from 80mm to 130mm can be used. I ended up corresponding with a pro racer from the NE who had raced on a Hollowpoint and their new XC based Azure. One thing that stood out in his description of the Hollowpoint was doing drops of 6' one day, and then changing the wheelset and then winning an XC race the next.

IH actually discontinued the Hollowpoint in 2005, and split the bike into two different frames. the MKIII for trail and the Azure for XC.

Also the HP can be found for so cheap and the Azure is brand new. If you are looking for an HP know that North Face licensed Iron Horse to build some bikes for them and sold them under their label in the Kichatna Model. Same exact bike, but you can find them much cheaper sometimes.

There were some warranty issues with 2003 frames that originally came with 5" linkages. Several broke but IH replaced all under warranty. It sounded like a small batch had problems, as several had no problems at all with the 5" linkages. But IH released new linkages that made the travel 4.5" max and adjusted to 3.75"

I ended up buying a used 15" with a swinger air shock for around $450. Keep in mind that a Racer X goes for $2k new maybe $1000used.

The geometry is skewed towards XC with a 71degree head tube. Thought the seat tube is a slack 71.4degrees as opposed to the industry standard 73. This really throws off the effective top tube length, as it 'artificially' elongates it. You have to scoot your saddle forward on the rails to get into the same position if it was a 73 degree. So it all works out in the end, but I don't like how it looks from an aesthetic viewpoint.

So I wish IH had speced it with 73 and it looks like they have changed that for all their 2005 and 2006 bikes.

the build
I'll try to limit this review to the frame itself and not draw too many conclusions from the build. I built the frame piece by piece and you can read the details here: Current Hollowpoint Build.

Some notes though:
On the 15" frame the triangle is really really tight with the suspension linkages.
There was no way my SRAM Xgen front der. was going to work, and and XTR didn't work, so stick with the stock front der. (XT) unless you have a larger size that might have more room

The headset is an internal type. So I stuck with the stock FSA that came with it. So far no problems and the fork crown has a split in it making it real easy to move from fork to fork. But honestly, I wish they had just speced a normal headset rather than the internal kind. There just isn't as much choice for the end user for internal headsets yet.

The seatpost is 27.0. Why it is not 27.2 I don't know. Lame in my opinion.

I have a 107mm BB with a Square taper on there, and I think that is too short. I am going to try a 113mm to see if the shifting improves.

The front bottle cage is on the underside of the top tube. Real PIA to get a bottle in and out. I only just put a cage on to use a light battery and haven't been using it with a bottle. But given the frame design this was the only place for it.

The rear chainstays are wide and beefy. And you don't get the kind of chainsuck like you can on a typical bike. But the chain can climb over the edge and get jammed. As I have done.


Everyone always wants to know how much does it weigh. I am a total closet weight weenie. And do not even tell me that you don't think about how much things weigh when you consider a purchase for your bike. Weight is a hugely debatable issue. A lot of it is just marketing hype and these benchmarks in weight that have been pulled from the air: 25lbs for FS/XC, 30lbs for trail, 22lbs for hardtail, 17lbs for road bike, etc.

When you really do the physics at places like Analytic Cycling you might be surprised just how little difference a few pounds makes over the course of a ride.

That being said, weight is still important whether it is purely perception or reality. And unfortunately when you design a bike to do double duty as a trail and XC bike it probably isn't going to be as light as true XC racer.


The frame w/shock/headset cups came out to be 7.6lbs. Pretty hefty in the royal scheme of things. My build was pretty light especially the wheels and total weight came out to be 27.2 lbs.

The weight is a NON-ISSUE for the most part. The only times it becomes apparent are
1) during the parking lot test when you heft each others bikes and oohh and ahh,
2) racking the bike
3) hike a bike sections.
4) when I turn pro it might be more of an issue.

As soon as you throw a leg over it, the extra 2 pounds compared to a feather weight just disappears.

Rear Shock Discussion
My frame came with a 2003 Swinger Air shock with SPV
It's sort of ironic that they spec a platform shock on the higher models, as the DW link is so good at filtering out pedal bob that it actually doesn't NEED platform. In fact many say the platform detracts from the DW link experience.

Iron Horse states that they spec platform shocks NOT for their low speed compression capability but for their ability to reduce harsh bottoming out. And they recommend airing up the SPV or CVT in the 5th element to the absolute minimum. In fact those frames that come with 5th Elements have custom platform valving minimizing the platform as compared to stock.

Several hollowpoint devotees deliberately put on Non platform shocks such as the Cane Creek Cloud 9 or the AD-12 and love the performance.

Set up
Setup of a DW link shock is of utmost importance. I mean it is really really important to spend a lot of time to dial it in. Because if you don't it isn't going to ride well at all. The design requires a fair amount of sag as compared to other FS/XC bikes. The idea is that when you are sitting on the bike you are sitting INSIDE the suspension, and then the suspension is free to track the ground as best as it can.

There is an ideal suspension sag that is unique to the individual. It is at this point where the shock will move very very little on flat ground, but will then soak up any bumps it comes in contact with. It can be hard to find this point because sometimes tuning the air spring goes counter to what you believe. If you see the shock moving under your pedal stroke, the first thing you think about is adding more air, yet with a DW link this can be the absolute wrong thing to do and it will bounce even more. More often than not you need to remove air and it will settle down.

But there will be a point probably between 25%(9.5mm) and 33%(12.6mm) sag where you will find the sweet spot. Right now I have it set in the 3.75" setting and have 50psi (minimum) in the SPV chamber and 120 in the main air chamber and am getting around 11.5mm of sag ( I am 135lbs with gear)

One of these days I think I am going to ride into a tree from looking down so much at the shock to see what is going on. I've found that on flat paved ground with a high spin it does move a little-1-2mm. But on the trail it seems to settle down. Especially when climbing on smooth ground. It doesn't move until the rear wheel hits something like rock or root and then Skoosh the travel just takes it up. Pretty neat. Until I run off the trail or into a tree that is.

The Hollowpoint seems to be rearward weight biased. And getting the front fork to sag as much as it needs for balance can be difficult. I am using a 2005 Black Super Air
And it had been a challenge to find the best settings for it.The Black is a combo coil/air spring and putting in the light rider spring kit helped. I've read about others that have to go with lighter spring than their weight may normally require.

Travel settings
It is fairly straightforward to change the travel settings.

This is what short travel (3.75") looks like:

And long travel looks like this:

What I have found is that the both have great pedaling efficiency. And that the long travel mode actually climbs better on loose technical terrain as it doesn't slip as much as the short travel mode. But that when climbing through rock gardens like this:
The short travel mode felt faster and more efficient.

In short travel mode it seems to blow through the rear travel once the platform has been breached. I've heard this complaint in general about the Swinger and a different shock may perform better. It doesn't seem to do this as much in long travel mode.

But in general short mode feels tighter and more balance with the 100mm fork I've got up there. But long travel mode, as can expected downhills better.

My current feeling is that if you want to clean everything, and fly on the downhills, long travel mode is better, but if you want to go-go-go fast and tight then short travel mode is better.

Overall Impressions
The DW link suspension really is all they say it is. There is just something about the feel of it that seems to will me forward. Where the Salsa felt like it sucked the momentum out of me sometimes, this just seems to take my energy and transmit it forward. Especially on the climbs.

The only terrain where it doesn't shine above a hardtail is smooth flowing single track.

the HP can certainly hold it's own here, but a good hardtail is made for this type of terrin. But any other terrain from this:
to this

And the HP just comes alive.

Of course compared to a hardtail it can downhill like a rocket. I have been riding some local downhill much much faster than I used to.

Depending on how you set it up it can rail on the single track too. I've got a 100mm fork with short stem and it steers very fast. An 80mm fork can be speced but I worry about hitting more things with the pedals at that height.

*EDIT: 1-12-06** I am testing a BLACK 80mm SPV on their right now, so far I LOVE it. much better climbing and in pedaling single track, w/o too much loss of downhilling capabilities ***

It does have loud chainslap though I think due to how the suspension works. And going through V dips feels a little weird, sort of like there is a delay in the pedaling while the suspension is fully activated.

Over all PROs
-great great value
-efficient pedaling
-superb downhiller
-made for technical riding
-backed by a good company
-adjustable travel

-Slack seatube
-27.0 seatpost spec
-internal headset spec
-water bottle placement
-tight front triangle with limited front derailleur possibilities
-chain slap
-rearward weight bias

I am quite happy with the Hollowpoint, and am now fully devoted to the DW Link cult. Given how reasonably priced they can be found on ebay and classifieds, they make a great value for anyone looking at full suspension.

My current priority is XC racing and aggressive XC riding. The HP is definitely an aggressive XC bike, but I think it is slightly overbuilt for what I really want. XC racing speed is where I'm at, yet at the same time, it is SO much, and I mean SOOO much fun to cruise around in the long travel mode, especially on things like this:
DSC00394. It is a wonderful trail type bike that can actually climb very well. I've cleaned some super steep super loose stuff that I've never come close on my hardtail.

But I think I am going to keep my eyes open for a closeout Azure later in 2006 which from everything I read is a Hollowpoint on a diet and with a rocket booster built in.

edit: 5-5-06
Put a 100mm Minute on there. Rides great.
Every time I get on this bike I love it more. It is the most incredible climber I've every ridden.