Monday, February 23, 2009

Training logs, you should be keeping one.

What a difference a week makes was going to be the title of this entry but I looked at last years training log this morning and that brought about the change.

Two weeks ago I had a couple of really solid rides and I was wondering how it was that I was riding so well. Friday I went out on the single speed cross bike and headed North on the Blue Ridge Parkway. A bunch of steady climbs, none that leave me over geared but they are just hard enough that I am getting a good work out. Today however I was turning the gear over easier than usual, on the last climb to the lookout I normally have to grind just a bit but today it almost felt like I had changed to an easier gear. On the way back more of the same, the last climb before the river is usually an out of the saddle effort as I get towards the top but today I stayed seated and felt like I floated up it.

The next week the Family and I headed to Disney for my daughter Ellie's 5th birthday. A week off the bike would probably do me good, I never take enough of a break after cross season and this would give me some rest.

So we get home and I head out for my easy spin ride on Fri. and every direction I go seems like a headwind. Each time I go up hill it feels like work, big difference from the previous Friday but I kinda expected it after not riding for a week, walking a ton and spending 12 hours in the car on Thurs. Never the less still not a fun ride.

The next day I decided to do the Bakery group ride. I hadn't been back after my first one last year but I wanted to ride with a group and figured it would also motivate me to stay on the bike longer in the cold weather. After an almost 3 hour ride I came home and felt trashed. Sure part of it was I went out on the road bike for the first time in about 6 months and that had my body tweaked from being more stretched out than I was used to but I wasn't going to let that bit of logic make me feel better.

I start thinking I am way behind where I want to be fitness wise, I haven't done a long ride in months and I am going to be in big trouble when mtn. bike season gets here. Of course reading about everyone else doing 15-20 hour training weeks doesn't help. So this morning I get out last years training log to see what I was doing at the same time in 2008. Turns out about what I am doing now, in fact I might be a bit ahead of where I was last year. Perfect example of why it is a good idea to keep track of what you do year to year.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February test time

I have a loop that I started doing last year that is on the forest service roads around the house. It takes me over three pretty good climbs and is all dirt roads, my favorite stuff to ride.

I starting using it as somewhat of a fitness test mostly due to the fact that since I tend to ride by my lonesome more often than not I don't have a real good way to gauge my fitness if there is a long gap between races.

I do it on my single speed mtn. bike which helps eliminate variables. Same bike, same gear so equipment gets thrown out of the equation. Since most of the loop is through the forest the wind is a non factor. The only real difference is the condition of the roads, when it is super dry I can go uphill faster but have to be a bit more cautious on the downhills. When they are tacky I usually have to grind a bit more on the climbs but can rip it going down. So a pretty good trade off though I prefer dry as the climbs are hard enough.

Last year my best time on this loop was 1:48, it came after I had done a half dozen or so mtn. bike races and I was just about to start my training for the coming cross season. I recall feeling pretty good that day and it beat my previous fastest time by almost 5 min. Needless to say I was pretty happy with the effort.
I hadn't done one yet this year, mostly due to not being motivated to suffer for almost 2 hours.

This week I finally found myself with the desire to give it a go and though I was ready for the effort I wasn't expecting great results. One thing in my favor at least was I was getting to ride in shorts for the first time in quite a while, that always helps make you feel faster.

Once I leave the short paved stretch the timer starts, the first bit is slightly rolling then it goes to a long false flat. After 7 or 8 min. you hit the start of the real climb. The first of the 3 is by far the steepest and the ramp to get it started pegs the hr right off the bat. From this point to the top is mostly out of the saddle climbing with only a few short stretches where you can sit and recover slightly. The whole way up I felt like I was moving pretty slow but I stayed on it in hopes that I would hit the top in under 25 min. I think the fastest I have gotten there is just under 23 min. so I at least would have some idea how things were going when I made it there. When I rolled under the parkway I looked at the watch and to my surprise 21 min. and some change.

Well now I was really motivated because I might actually post a pretty good time. A nice long downhill to the Mills River camp ground and the start of climb #2. This one starts out pretty steady and stays a good constant grade most of the way to the top. A couple of steeper pitches which require an out of the saddle effort but the majority of it is done seated. Probably my favorite of the three, the gear just seems to be right and you can get in a good rhythm. Goal to the top of this one is to be there in under an hour and upon hitting the top I was well under 1 hour so I was still going pretty good.

Another quick drop before climb # 3, which is also the easiest. Long false flat stretch followed by a short steep bit then it stays steady all the way to the top. The grade is such that I almost get a bit spun on the single speed. As I made my way to the top I felt as though I was really turning the pedals over quickly, nice feeling and I knew once I was there it was the last fast downhill back to the pavement. At the bottom of the hill it flattens out just enough that I spend the last few minutes doing plenty of high rpm's and getting into my "aero" tuck. There is one last short steep little grinder to make the legs ache but by the time you hit it you are focused on getting to the finish so you are over it in no time.

As I am coming to the pavement and spinning like a mad man I am hoping that I at least managed a sub 1:55. As I hit the line I check the watch, 1:41 and a few seconds. I did a quick double take to make sure I read it right and then a quick grin. I didn't expect that I would have gone that quick but I was stoked. I guess I could chalk it up to left over fitness from cross season or maybe it is due to riding my single speed cross bike quite a bit the last couple of months. That bike has a much bigger gear and I ride it on most of the same stuff but just have to really push and grind my way to the top of the climbs. Either way it bodes well for the coming mtn. bike season.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

At least I was riding outside?

As I headed out for my ride yesterday I had intentions of doing 3 hours and riding a couple of the dirt roads and hitting two of the nice long climbs. It was a bit cold at the start but as I spun along I began to warm up and by the time I hit some of the less travelled roads everything was going as planned. About 45 min. into the ride it started to snow a bit, pretty light and I was still enjoying the fact that I wasn't on the trainer.

With the snow came a bit more wind and that is when I started to notice then temp. was dropping. Everything was staying pretty warm with the exception of my hands.Every time my hands or feet start to get cold I think of one of my good friends EJ. He constantly complains about the cold and has the most impressive arsenal of gloves and footwear you have ever seen. More so when you consider he lives in Texas.

I started to think about cutting the ride short knowing that the dirt roads I planned to hit would be well shaded and even colder. By the time I had made my decision and turned around and started back to home my hands were frozen. I tried to shake them, kept my fingers clinched, anything to get them to warm up. I upped the pace in an attempt to generate more body heat and tried to think of something other than my hands.

Once I got home I headed up from the garage and promptly plopped down in the big chair in the living room. Ellie Paige, my 4 year old daughter made every attempt to warm me up. Got me a big fuzzy blanket as well as a big comfy pillow that she put behind my head. As the blood made it's way back to my fingers I was in agony, all I could manage was to just sit there and try to let it pass. Seems like as I have gotten older it has gotten worse, maybe my circulation isn't as good as it once was or maybe it is due to the fact that I have broken both my wrists but either way not a fun experience.

Today the tips of my fingers are still a bit numb and sensitive and I am thinking that maybe the trainer isn't so bad after all.