Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Today was my first day of the Hypertrophy phase of the Morris Strength Training. This occurs of course after a 3 week transition period that consisted of progressively harder weights and more sets. In fact my first day of transition consisted of squating just the bar. And I was very sore the next day.

Today I did 6 sets with increasing weight on the 3rd and 5th sets and it wasn't too bad. I was fasting for a cholesterol test at 10am and that probably wasn't a good idea for lifting, but it was ok.

A tenant of the Morris way is block training with back to back days. The strength training is no different. The key though is that the weights are reduced on the second day just like the duration of riding is typically reduced on a consecutive riding day.

I encourage anyone to try out the Morris strength training plan if anything just to be amazed at how your body is able to adapt in such a short period of time. I fill out a spreadsheet based on some estimated 1 rep maximums. The weights are all calculated off this 1RM for each excercise. You proceed through the phases of lifting and on the last day of the Strength phase you will be doing multiple reps at your original 1RM.

Somewhere around the middle of hypertrophy I've seen my body and some friends really adapt and you make some big gains quickly. So much so that I typically need to adjust my weights up.

Anyway it's just kind of neat to work through this plan. At the begining it seems difficult to picture myself lifting this kind of weight especially after being so sore from just lifting the bar or body weight.

Monday, October 29, 2007

This wasn't my idea...really

As a parent I often find myself struggling between coddling the kids and encouraging them to try things beyond their comfort zone. I think this especially true of fathers and when it has to do with athletics. I was never much of an athlete and athletics weren't definitely the priority in my house growing up. I try to encourage it more with my own kids, but the fact is they are not naturals or phenoms like seemingly all the kids in the neighborhood. They often are just like me, a little timid about pushing the limits.

So when my son said he wanted to try riding down the stairs I was both scared and elated at the sametime. Non-chalantly, I said ok lets set up at the top. Keep the pedals level and don't brake with the front brake and keep your weight back. I got half way down the steps to catch him if he fell. He decided to not do it.

Which was fine with me, cause it is a daunting drop for a little kid. I was just proud that he even wanted to try it in the first place. Then I go back inside to do some stuff. He comes in a few minutes later saying that he did it and he wanted to show me. I couldn't believe it. I tried not to show any surprise or fear about it and said ok show me, but let me get the camera. No big deal just want to take a picture of it. The last thing I want to do is give him any idea that what he's doing is scary and has potential for carnage.

So he sets up at the top of the front stairs and is ready to go and then Mom comes running out the front door all aghast. What is going on here.. you know the Mom drill. I'm Trying to nip this in the bud before the kid gets all worried and scared. This is the key to mtn biking. Not knowing enough to be scared. He doesn't know yet that he should be scared. When you get scared you get hesitant, and anyone that knows anything about mountain biking knows that is the begining of the end.

So I told mom to just go back inside, my son just goes for it. no problem almost textbook form. No big deal, good job. And I move onto something else before he realizes the knots in my stomach are making me sick.

My greatest hope isn't that they turn out to be scholarship atheletes or anything. I just want them to live and try things without the self made obstacles that I've seen block my own development.

Friday, October 26, 2007


I went on a ride this past weekend. I could not believe how out of shape I have gotten in just a few weeks. Climbing the last hill was really hard. Sad a little.

But on the flip side, I am also amazed at how quickly my body is adapting to the lifting. The first few days were really hard, but I'm quickly moving up weight and should be ready for the Hypertrophy next week. One of the great things about this strength training program is that every year I get to surprise myself.

Looking at the program all laid out in my spreadsheet, it is very daunting to think that I'll ever be able to lif the kind of weight specified on the sheet. But year after year I continue to accomplish the listed weight and typically exceeed it.

So it's just neat how the body can operate and adapt to new conditions. The key seems to be selectively pushing beyond your comfort zone and allowing proper recovery. The tricks are knowing how much to push beyond your limit. Push too much and it works in a negative way. Too little and you don't get the most efficient response.

And not pushing at all....In cycling as well as in life. That leads to complacency, boredeom, and probably losing fitness. So doing the same thing, like the same ride at the same intensity ends up working against you. Cause once your body adapts to the stimulus than it doesn't need to grow or improve anymore.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Season Summary and looking to 2008

It has been a good year with regards to cycling. For all intents and purposes I accomplished all the goals I set out to do for this year.

-I've cut weight and seem to be holding well. Though I have gotten my sweet tooth back and we'll see how it goes with Halloween. But in general I just don't eat a whole lot these days

-I broke my PR on my timed local climb

-I beat my time on Poor mountain from Last year

-My sustainable power numbers are up from last year.

-My races results were decent. This was my first full year in vet expert. My times on some courses are improved compared to last year, but results wise I tend to be in the lower/mid part of the group. It just shows how fast the experts are.

During this year, I also saw some more patterns emerge that are comparable to years past. There seems to be a lull in motivation in the early part of the summer and then again towards the end of the year in October-ish.

In addition, there were several times where my mind just got totally focused on something else be it work, or family issues or other hobby. The problem is that I couldn't even for 1/2hr or 1hr separate my mind from the interfering fixation in order to do my training. After this happens a few times, it's easy to get off track and take a little while to get back on task. This year I also did the Mountains of Misery road century. It seemed to take me a while to get my mtb race legs back after preparing for this. It definitely helped my overall fitness and sustainable pace, but seemed to take away some snap.

My fitness and riding is going well overall. I focused this year on developing sustainable power, and think that was a success. It just felt good to go a certain speed and was able to hold it for a decent duration. However, I also noticed that performance outside of this zone nosedived quickly.

I could go outside of it for very short sections like short grunts or technical sections and then recover back. However I could never start very fast, or if I did go overlimit at the start then it would take a significant amount of time to get back to a good pace. More often than not I'd fry myself within a few minutes and then be shot. It's always been like this actually.

I had gotten coached by Dave a few years ago. And have taken those workouts as my template and increased the number of reps and sets over the past few years. The intent was to increase the duration of work performed in order to prepare better for the length of expert races. The goal is always to perform the intervals at the highest power setting that allows me to complete the entire workout. However, the greater the # of reps or sets, the lower the power level. This seems to have emphasized the ability to go at a decent pace for a longer period of time but did not improve my top end as much.

I'm thinking that I'd like to attack it from the other end this year. And focus a little bit more on the higher power output. So my intent is to take my workouts and drop down to the same # of reps/sets from two years ago. But attempt to increase the power output at which those intervals are performed.

So for example. Instead of doing 4 sets of 6x1 on 1 off at 310W, I'd go back to 3 sets of 5x1 on 1 off and shoot for 320W or whatever.

Some of the trainer workouts this year did get a little long. So it might be nice to drop back down in duration.

There are some complications upcoming this year though and for the next several years. I'm starting to take a class a semester with the intent of working towards a PhD. Classes are the least of my problems, it's the rest of the program that I have no clue how it'll go with working full time, family, etc.

I have gone back and forth a few times about bagging racing year. If I don't race or set some very specific goals, then it would be too easy to just drop it all. I've worked really hard the last few years and it would be a shame to lose all I've gained. But at the same time, my priorties will be different. Something will have to give I'm sure.

If I could just figure out how to compartmentalize my mind a little bit, I think improving or at least maintaining could still be a reality. The Morris plan is so time efficient that I can make some gains in under 7 hrs a week. We still don't have TV/cable so come on I gotta be able to fit that in.

One thing I know is that success at developing fitness is a result of consistent work spread out over a long period of time. Ever heard the saying, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step" Progressive periodized workouts combined with strategic rest through the course of the year and successive years has been the key to my improvement. So if I can just be consistent through the year even with shorter workouts maybe I can continue to improve a little.

The other thing is to make the training require no thought so that it is like brushing my teeth. Don't even need to obsess, just make it second nature. The more autopilot I can make the training the better chance at success I've got.

Regardless of racing, I know that I just cannot 'ride to smell the roses'. For me there is a minimum level of fitness and skill required for mountain biking to be fun. This is especially the case with the terrain locally. I just cannot enjoy coughing up a lung on Old Farm, or struggling on the Gap trails without some level of competency.

So for now my goals are to
-finish my strength training early enough so that I can get some decent endurance rides in before the bad weather hits

-focus on higher power output at shorter durations than compared to this past year.

-try to develop the ability to comparmentalize the obsessive mindset as needed in order to accomplish training for just 1/2hr-1hr at a time and for a few races (maybe 5 or so events??)

-Hang on at the start even for just a minute!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rowdy Dawg

The East Coasters Rowdy Dawg is coming up this weekend.

It is a hard fun race with some sweet VA singletrack.

I am not going to race this weekend. I'm just done for the year. Mentally I'm in offseason mode and enjoying it. I think I've still got some underlying bug that would surely surface if I went over the limit.

We might be out there to enjoy the scene though.

Collegiate Old Farm results

The VT cycling team held their collegiate stage race in Blacksburg last weekend. One of the events was a hill climb up my favorite old farm trail. It was cool to see the times and compare it to my own and feel very humbled by how fast those guys are.

The times can be found here. I'm not exactly sure where their start/stop times were. I think the start was just inside the trees beyond the wood kiosk.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Transitioning to off-season

I started to lift weights a little. My complete off-season starts with a focused periodized strength training program.

I of course am following the strength training plan from Dave Morris. If anyone has the book and wants my spreadsheet for organizing the strength training part let me know. The book is slightly confusing and it is helpful to set it up in a spreadsheet.

However it is extremely important to ease into to the strength training. This is especially crucial for those of us who's bodies are completely out of balance due to 100% sport specificity towards cycling.

My transition to the first real phase of strength training takes 3 weeks of progressive lifting 3x a week.

Let me give you an idea of what my first day was like:
-2x10 squats with NO weight
-10lbs chest press
-stiff-legged dead lift with 10lb dumbells.

And I was incredibly sore the next day. My second lifting session bumped it up a little but still used relatively very very light weights. Such as squating with the bar only 45lbs, and dead lifts with the bar only.

OMG I was really sore. And the next day my body started to pull a bionic woman on me and was rejecting the change in workout. Chills, aches, flu like symptoms I was literally in bed half of the day. But was totally fine the next day and went to my third lifting session.

Things continue like this till I can work up to 3x10 at a weight that will be just under my hypertrophy lifting levels. Then starts the 3-4 week hypetrophy phase.

It's sad the soreness given the utterly low amount of weight. But on the flipside my body begins to adapt quickly. It is very amazing how much weight I'll be lifting in a relatively short amount of time by the end of the strength phase.

Different this year is that I'm going to get out the jump rope and do some jumping at the gym. I love jumping rope but haven't done much of it since college. It's just a fun and very hard workout in a short amount of time...I can only last a few minutes right now.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Messing around with bikes

Lately I've been enjoying my hardtail. Mainly I seem to wheelie a little better on it, meaning two pedal strokes in stead of one. It's all relative.

But I've been meaning to try out the 100mm for on it just to see how it rides. I slapped it on yesterday and ran it up Old Farm today. My legs are definitely on the upswing as two days after Poor Farm I was able to post a great time, only 30seconds off my best time.

So it climbed decently. I had to get off and hike a couple of times from spinning out, but that's a hardtail issue and not the fork.

It felt a little awkward going down. It's my first ride on it, and it's just like when I go back to the dually after being on the hardtail, it takes at least two to three rides to get the timing back.

It is definitely steering a little slower. My Minute 100 has an Axle to crown of 573 mm and the Black 80SPV is 553 so a 20mm difference in height. I removed 20mm of spacers to place the bar in the position, but the added AC height ends up slackening the head tube. In addition, I also had to adjust the tilt of my saddle.

The bikes was originally built almost 9 years ago with a 71.5 head tube around a 70mm fork. Quick yes, but in my younger days that's what I wanted. It put my on my ass several times. Since then I moved to the Black 80 SPV which helped slacken it up to probably a 71 degree. That is pretty standard for XC bikes. My dually has a 70.5 head tube and it's always felt a little bit tamer and in control.

It takes more muscle to get it to corner but overall the stability was nice when tired. The extra travel was also nice on the downhills for the bigger hits. I've always wondered how the hardtail would fare and was thinking that a 70.5 degree head tube combined with a 100mm SPV type fork would make an ideal hardtail for our technical terrain out here.

It would climb decently but then also decend well. I'm going to withold final verdict till after a few more rides. But so far I know that it does climb pretty well.

Oh just a note. I am pretty convinced that a dually is faster in the long run. The cummulative fatigue just adds up so much that 2-2.5hrs into it the dually starts to pay off. But I am just having fun on the hardtail. It really forces you to be on your game.

Now 3hrs into a ride I'll change my tune but for short rides when you're mentally and physically there they rule. The fitter experts can do it for longer.

The funny thing is that just crusing around with the kids on the trail I think a dually is way better. Cause you're going slower and sitting down and take every hit right through the saddle.

Poor Mountain Wrap Up

The Poor Mountain Hill Climb was this past weekend. For whatever reason this is probably my favorite event of the year. I really like that it seems to bring the best out in riders. From JB who broke his own record to the Rev who broke his time from last year by a whopping 7+ minutes.

This year's running brought the largest turnout with over 100 racers. Different than years past, an 'all bike category' was added and there were a few full on road bikes. I was afraid for the road bikes and all the other super thin tired / high pressure riders. My experience from previous runs had me bumping down pressure in order to maintain traction.

But they didn't seem to have too many problems as Flavia from Blacksburg was the first woman up and on her road bike and there were plenty of fast people on thin tires. I still preferred the softer rear tire for any of the dirt portion as it just felt like it matched the contour of the terrain better and had better traction.

Of course leading up to the race, I was worried. All those pre-taper aches/pains were in full force with lower back pain. We went to Explorer park the day before and I had to actually walk around in the heat for a few hours. I was tempted to ask for the shuttle sevice between exhibits. That for sure was going to kill me. In addition, I hadn't been feeling well for like 3 weeks. Not one good ride in that time, which doesn't do a lot for one's confidence.

My goal was to break 55minutes.
In order to do this I needed to beat the following split times
14 minutes to the dirt
32 minutes from the dirt to the turn
9 minutes from the turn to the top

The day before I hit the trainer to loosen the legs and started to feel good where some 5x1min on 2/off intervals were easy at a power level that is usually hard.

The day of the race, you could tell it was going to be hot. I mean really hot.

There were some organizational delays at the start and my whole timing for my magic sport legs was thrown off. In hindsight I messed it up. The goal was to have an overlap in doses while on the last section of the climb. While in theory this sounds good, it didn't work out as I'd hoped as you'll see. Not a huge screw up though.

We all lined up at the railroad tracks and off we went. Comically, within seconds I was huffing and puffing off the back. This is the one part of the race that I don't like. I wish that it was a true time trial where everyone started one at a time. This would remove the draft from the equation. Of course, that is because I suck at staying with a group.

But in this situation, the ability to stay with the group pays big big dividends. The first 8-10 or so minutes are a gradual road. After that it starts to get steep enough where staying with a draft isnt' as important. But up until that point you'll go a lot faster with less energy than flailing alone.

I got spit out the back of the experts but then caught on with some sport riders for a little bit of a ride. I knew that huffing and puffing so early on was a recipe for disaster for me so I just scaled it back and found my groove.

My first split time was almost a minute faster than my last run. Good I guess but scary that I might have over done it. But I was feeling decent and just tried to stay on it the best I could. I was looking at my watch and saw the next split read 32 minutes but thought no way am I that far up this thing. Turns out I was looking at the wrong line on the watch and was looking at total time.

Up towards the turn I was still doing ok and beat my goal for the second split. But then the last wall section came up. The newspaper said 16% on gravel. Whew didn't really know it was that steep. This section is totally open to the sun, oh it was like an oven.

I'd brought extra water to pour over my head and up here I got some specators to pour some water on my back.

My legs were turning ok but had no snap at all. This is where I screwed up a little on the Sport legs. The one downside of their affect is that while they dampen any pain they also kill any leg speed and leg snap at least for me. I am not sure if I should have taken a dose to have kicked in about 30-40 minutes into it and have it last all the way through the end instead of going for the over lap in doses.

On this section I honestly was feelin NO (zero) pain in the legs. But they just wouldn't turn any faster than they were. I just couldn't make any time on anyone front of me or close a gap. By the very top I'd caught up to Frank the Tank Check his page out for a great picture that was in the Roanoke times. I was just out of range of this picture.

I caught him but then he saw the line and sprinted away.

My final time was around 54:42 or so. Last years time was 55:55 and I beat my goal by 15 seconds. So not bad considering the heat and how I've been feeling the past few weeks. In hindsight my training should have included simulating the group start and going over the limit for about 8-10 minutes an then recovering. I think I could take another minute off my time with that ability.

I started specifically training for this back in August. Here are some neat pictures of my improvement over the last few months. *note that that the first run was on the full suspension and there were some slighte equipment changes and heat/eating differences between rides.
pfarm totals
pfarm splits

My time split on the first two sections was faster but my last time split was just 6 seconds faster that my previous best. I think it is just so steep that there is an upper limit to how fast I can do it regardless of how I'm feeling.

Anyway another great year on a ride that brought out my best.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

GORE cables are back

I've been so busy that I didn't even realize that Interbike has come and gone. Honestly, very little caught my attention this year. The Race Face mtb components look pretty nice, but that was about it.

Until I saw on velonews tv that Gore cables are back. I love those things. I've got one set left running on my rear brake for the road bike. Glad to see them back in action.

Installation was a little tricky and if you rushed it then you weren't going to get the best performance. But if you took your time and installed them properly they would last a long long time. And they felt like butter.