Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fall Perfection

How could one NOT be outside on a perfect fall day. Temp... 72. Humidity... 32%. Sky... completely cloudless. The mission... a long ride endurance to tempo pace with my always steady partner Jane.

Today's route takes us from the core of the 4th largest city in the US, through a very rural park, out to the bedroom community of Katy. It's a unique contrast of urban and rural. A good route for avoiding the trappings of traffic, and keeping a steady pace with the exception of a few parts that are peppered with red-lights.

A good ride. Felt very strong today before fading in the last hour or so. Continuous improvement is what it's all about!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Roller Thoughts

I was not prepared for how much I like rollers compared to a stationary trainer. It is actually riding a bike as compared to sitting on a bike. Thus, your entire body is engaged -just like it is on the road. On a trainer your upper body, arms, core, have no function. I always feel like I should be cooking dinner or something. A few thoughts.

Learning to ride rollers is not hard. Once you get the hang of it, it's very natural feeling. Took less than a total of an hour to get IT.

I've learned about my spin quality! Rollers provide instant feedback on your spin. One interesting thing I've found is knee stability. I've never had great knee alignment. I've been fit twice, and each time when pedaling in the fit studio, my knees looked great. But never looked as good on the bike under actual conditions. Saddle height, Q-spacers, wedges, nothing seemed to be able to take all of the knee-knock out. I learned why on rollers.

I've been subconsciously using my knees to balance with. I've been throwing a knee to the side at top of each pedal stroke to compensate balance. It wasn't a positioning problem at all. It was a dynamic balance issue. Why was this not spotted? All of my fittings were done on a stationary trainer.

Related to the above, riding rollers has made me sore in some odd places. My knees weren't supported into alignment by inner thigh muscles at the top of my pedal stroke. They were being pulled outboard by outer hip muscles. Now... my knees are properly supported but the muscles aren't as developed as they should be.

Rollers are a great training tool with benefits beyond getting one out of the weather.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Winter's Coming

I'm determined to keep fitness over the winter this year. Yet, diametrically, I loathe riding the trainer. A possible solution? Rollers.

Unpacked the quality of Kreitler rollers is immediately apparent. The frames are coated with high-quality coatings. The alloy drums are smoothly finished and the bearings are fantastic. Assembly is completely simple...

How good are these rollers? If you spin a drum it will spin for a looong time. Not cheap, but after receiveing them, they are worth it.

Riding. Is not easy, but the learning curve is pretty quick. I'm riding them in a hallway. After about 20min I'm able to balance without holding onto anything. Just like mountain biking, the faster you go, the easier it is. I quickly learned just how much my upper body and knees are used to maintain balance. Rollers enforce quality spin form.

Yes, I rode off the side once. It's a non-event. You don't shoot down the hall. It's just an instant stop and plop. 'Steering' on rollers happens veeery quickly. It will take out any tendency to overcorrect.

I like them. This may be just what I need to get through this winter season.

A Top 10 Finish

A ninth-place finish for the Piney Hills Classic. Very apprehensive about this race after Saturday's pre-ride. In short, this course is everything I'm not good at. A lot of down-and-ups. On these you have to really work the descent. No brakes. Gathering as much speed as possible. At the bottom hit a narrow 3-ft. wide bridge at nearly 30mph, so you have enough momentum to make it up the steep backside. Do it right, and it's an exilerating blast. Do it wrong and it makes for a lot of hike-a-biking. Being a flat-lander these are not strong parts of my skillset.

On my way to the start area I noticed a lot of Cat 2 folks exiting the course at the road crossing. DNF'ing. Not encouraging, as it had rained a bit. With no expectations I arrived at the start area, wondering where everyone was. The turnout was really small, compared to most XC races in Texas. I kept waiting for a horde of riders to turn up to stage. I went to the chute, and Cap got us lined up and off we went.

The first third of the race went better than expected. I could see peeks of the lead group as four of us fell back. Then four became two, and finally on one of the jeep roads I found myself alone. Strangely this felt good, as this was to go from racing to training in a hurry.

I missed a chunk of the course on my pre-ride. It was closed for the short-track and time-trials. I didn't get to ride Tomac hill. This is something special. As I rolled up... I understood why people talk about it. I was too gassed to give much pause and down I went. Fun, fun, fun. Did not know a MTB could go that fast. Went nearly as fast on the fenceline hill, and nearly biffed the yump at the bottom. Landing front-wheel-first at 30ish is not a good feeling.

This was definately the hardest race I've ever done. It's a hard course, but a do-able course, that rewards good descending skills and punishes mistakes. Maybe that's the cause of the small entrant field? At the same time... the course is one of the funnest I've ever ridden. Seems like the sort place that would make a good rider into a great rider. It certainly exposed my weaknesses and gave me a lot of concepts to focus on for the spring season.

I want to come back to ride without the pressure of a race before the spring season begins. The park is beautiful and the facilities are great. Very, very nice venue.

Oh, and about that top-ten finish... ummm... yeah. There were only nine entrants in my category. ;-)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fun Week

An easy one this week. Nothing too heavy before Saturday's race. Tonight some isolated leg pedaling and core work. Oh... pics from last weekend...

Monday, October 18, 2010

24 Hour Rule

Learned this from football coaches. After a game (race) you're allowed the first 24hours to be happy, or disappointed with the result. At the end you analyze what happened. Then put the emo away and go on to the next event. Good rule.

Analysis. The sketch is pretty good. My normalized power is +2w over my FTP. It's usually significantly below my FTP, meaning I've been leaving a lot on the trail. Having an NP this close to FTP means I paced this race well. Not going significantly over my ability keeps me from blowing up, not going significantly under means I'm not toodling.

This was the tail of two races. My HR trace tells a lot. For the first half of the race my HR stays high. But distinctly, it falls as my legs tire. I *think* this indicates my aerobic fitness is good, but my legs fatigued. IOW my cardio-vascular could sustain effort, but my muscular endurance couldn't. The power peaks continued to get smaller throughout the race. This makes sense given that my training refocused on aerobic fitness the last 6weeks.

My HR follows the elevation trace almost exactly for the second portion of the race. I used the downhills to recover, instead of being able to attack them and milk them for speed. I needed to do this, but it would better if I had something left in the legs for the DHs.

More indication of muscular endurance deficiency. Let's look at some hill climbs. The dashed line is my FTP. Each time up the hill, my power level starts out good, but quickly tapers off. This effect is consistent across the race. Improving my ability to crank up the power for say 3min bursts would really help my performance. Losing some weight would help a bunch, too.

None of this is a surprise. It is confirmation. The majority of my training focused on aerobic fitness. Indeed has improved. I've done a bit of power development, but I haven't stick with it. I need to. Also need to improve the efficacy of my training in that regime. In due time. Still need to develop the aerobic fitness some more. As I get close to the spring season, I'll revisit this data when building my plan.

Gawsh I feel like a nerd now!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Feel Good Again!

It doesn't feel like race day until you get your number!

Today was my best race to date in terms of execution. I arrived at the venue well rested and calm. Registration as always with the TMBA crew... simple and quick. What made today different was my pre-race routine was good. I've struggled with this, and never really gotten it -right. Today I nailed it.

It started last night. After some experimentation I've learned how to make rice using my Jetboil. I can't stand re-heated rice. Nothing like good fresh rice.

About 2hrs before the race I made my rice, mixed in some canned pineapple chunks into a vat of carbo-nutrional-gastro-goodness. Jane says rice is the perfect pre-race food. And I think she's right.

I warmed up adequately this time. I've either under or over shot the warmup. Today... I recorded it using the PowerTap. Now I've got a good template to follow. Bon.

I timed arrival at the staging area as I like. I hate waiting around to stage. I'm not usually nervous. But others' nerves are contageous. I showed up just in time to stage toward the back. *pow* We're off!

The start is easy. I'm tempted to move up, but resist. It's especially tempting as the dust is super bad. I get a surprise in one of turns. This section of trail is usually hardpacked gravel. It was completely sandy and loose. I wasn't expecting that, and almost take a digger under two minutes into the race! So much for home trail advantage.

I stay comfy thorugh the first part until the first road crossing by the Nature Center. It was on this first climb after the NC that I crampped up and blew sky-high last year. I begin to get apprehensive. I keep the pace sane. Maybe a bit conservative. I treadle the effort and... I get thorugh this section fine. I pass several a few folks in my cat. So far so good.

One guy has stuck right on my wheel so far, but has not asked to pass. The first long bridge has a sandy approach. Miss and, and you can't steer onto the bridge. Since this is my home course... I nail it. The guy on my wheel... doesn't. I don't see it. I hear it. The thud of bike and body are unmistakable!

Before I know it... I'm on the false flat to the spillway. Still feeling great. I'm way deeper into this race than last year. Knowing the fenceline climb is coming up, I milk the little bit of downslope here. Up the fenceline climb and I'm starting to hurt. Bad. I stall out, dab and like 4 people pass me. Ooops. I get to the top and I'm cramping a bit. Realizing what's going on, I decide it's survival mode from here, and use the downhills to rest. It's slow, but not as slow as having to stop for puking.

As I near the end, I'm completely disoriented where I'm at on the course. I'm thinking it's near the end, and it's time to turn up the wick. Hmm... I did that last year and I was further than I thought... I hold off. Until I round a corner and there's the finish. Dang. I dump the chain and get in the big boy gear for a sprint to the finish. Done.

Not sure where I finished. Back third? But... atleast they weren't picking up banners and course markings like they were last year ;). By my clock I shaved 20min off last year's time.

Still a long way to go, but progress is the focus...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Didn't Feel Tired...

... but I was. This off week has been remarkably refreshing. Had no preception how tired I was. But the difference in how I feel is huge. Obviously, I needed this. I'm wondering if there's a seasonal component to this. Last year at this point I was completely burnt out. I modified my training to avoid the heat this year. That helped. But I still felt the fatigue more than expected. The difference this year is that rested this week. Let's see if it helps...

My only riding this week has been commuting to work, and a short spin tonight to open up the legs for tomorrow's race. Not typical preparation. But this race is more about getting my feet wet than results. Curious how I'm going to feel tomorrow...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Rest" Week

It's "rest" week. The reason for the air quotes? Although I break from training... these weeks usually involve doing all of the errands, chores, and tasks that have been deferred because of training. Life's tasks pile up as things get put off due to lack of time. "Rest" weeks allow catching up on non-training things. There's a lot to do. Not exactly lazing around on the couch during this week.

These "rest" weeks are vital to me. I've learned (the hard way of course!) that if I don't set aside some time away from the saddle I end up burnt out. Who knew "resting" would be so difficult? With desires of better performance staring back at you... to simply stop... and do nothing for a while seems inappropriate. Rationally, I know long-term it's necessary. A short term sacrifice for a long-term goal. In that sense it's not unlike any other training effort. Where you endeavor with the faith that you will improve in the future. During "rest" weeks you don't work with the faith it will improve your training in the future so you will improve. It's all about delayed gratification, really.

It's not just resting this week. Race on Sunday. But I'm not doing anything special to prep for it, and not expecting a good result. This is however a threapeutic event. This was my last event before breaking my elbow last year, and my first oaf-icial event since. Kinda symbolic that I'm back. Hometown course, too. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Weeks Long Ride

Bit over four hours in Zone 3. New to me trail today. Walnut Creek in North Austin. There is some great riding up here. Easy stuff. Challanging stuff. Creek crossings. Open gravely trail that you can hammer on. And tight twisty trail through the woods. I'll let the pictures tell the story for today...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This Ride is Brought To You By...

Sour Patch Kids. That was my nutrition on tonight's ride. The ride? Simple. 4X 15min at 100-110%FTP. These felt much easier than I expected. Maybe it's the candy...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Fest!

I'm not talking about an outdoor fete celebrating a change in season. This was a festival of falling off the bike!

Saturday was a trip to Muleshoe Bend for some fun under exquisitely mild fall weather. Feeling a bit fatigued. But as I start to ride... I come to understand that I have absolutely no kick today. That's okay, it's been a hard week. Spark isn't expected. Given lack of kapow... I endeavor to ride with skill.

I come up short there too! I struggle with loose gravel. I fall - several times. I'm not sure if the gravel is looser because it's dry, or if I just haven't ridden this type of surface in too long. I feel like I'm riding on ice. I do know this... tire pressure and suspension settings that work fine on Huntsville sand and roots don't work on hill country rocks.

It's still a fun day, though! Glad I had my first aid bag...

... not that I was injured so bad, but it's nice to be able to clean up before driving to meet the loved one. As I write this on Sunday, no bruises or soreness. Excited about the upcoming week...