I used to have a standard to try & blog no less than once a month… I think that got blown to bits in 2013. Different training, lot’s of different stuff going on in life and most of all lot’s of writers block.
Not to say I didn’t get out some fun musings on a few races. But still so many other good stories to share that I missed telling.
2013 started pretty rough actually, a miserable about of illnesses & colds that seemed to be a regular weekly occurrence. I missed the ‘cross nationals in January, but leading into them there was something missing in my fitness & when I got the full blown influenza a week or two before hand. It wasn’t gonna happen.
I’m both a veraciously competitive person yet also laid back at times. I did a lot of thinking in the spring about where I’d been, and come from in terms fitness, skills & racing a bike. It was a long slow steady climb. I had the great fortune of working with some great coaches over the years. Initially I worked with CTS and had a really fun experience with Josh Powers who later started his own coaching at PowersEndurance. The guy has a wonderful sense of humor and very smart at what he does.
Eventually for a few reasons I wanted to try to something different, I’d heard great things about local Wisconsin coach Gordy Paulson (Peaks Training), he brought an ever so different philosophy to his way of training and with his coaching of Tristan Schouten . Gordy is one of the most excellent, not only coaches but human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know & work with. In working with him 2011 & 2012, I saw my greatest short term power/wattage gains.
While those numbers made great for bragging rights, they still left something missing when it came to racing the bike. The biggest struggle I still had was being able to hold my wattage on a bike for the duration of most races. In training jargon it was the challenge to translate my solid “threshold” power into long efforts.
I figured after some 8 years of doing similar things --- lower mileage, high intensity just wasn’t creating the adaptation in my body to race the distances I was doing. Now that’s not true of everyone, some people can substitute intensity for duration and have great results. Tristan from my understanding is one of those guys. Hats off to him. But we are all biologically just that much different in how we metabolize our energy stores and how our “energy systems” work.
I decided I had to consider a different alternative. Which is hard to do when you are indoctrinated into a belief or philosophy – harder/faster is better. So I took a step back, said “hey, it’s not entirely accomplishing what I’m trying to do, I’ve got nothing to lose to try something different”.
So in April I began a different program, unconventional for the typical racer, but one that focused on long rides, and very specific targets and wattage zones to ride in at specific times. At first glance I’d look at the absolute wattage targets & always think, “Oh, boy, this is gonna be an easy day!” But what I failed to consider was the duration that was required…. and even a moderate output can be extremely difficult if the training ride is long enough.
Skeptical that it would work? Yup. But soon after I found myself feeling like I had stamina that I didn’t have previously. The first race of the season, the Strada Fango spring classic, was my first hint it might be working. A 4+hr race that early in the season would have normally had me unglued 2hrs in. This year, except for late race misdirection on my half, had Nate Lillie & myself leading it up to the finish.
The second race of the season, the Cable Off Road Classic was the first time I’d gone into that race with only a handful of rides going at or above race pace. Now due to the prolonged winter weather conditions, the race was revised & was a distinctly shorter race. Even so, the longer training didn’t hurt as I was able to come thru for a much celebrated win in a race that holds a special place & lot’s of memories.
I'll do on average 12-15 races a year. It seems to be the right amount for the time, effort & energy required living where I do & my life situation. So as the early part of summer arrived I was doing workouts that would have previously shocked me. I wasn’t racing as well as I would have liked or getting the progress I wanted, but at the same time I wasn’t having any endurance issues.
Had a s0-so Mt Borah Epic, the 30 miles of single track race. Efficiency on a bike matters quite a bit. And without any time on singletrack to get in a groove, I’d waste a huge amount of energy where more natural & fluid racers could conserve.
To some degree the same could have been said of the Keweenaw ChainDrive, but in that case. I learned that expending a great deal of energy going for a prime, will cost you later. There’s no getting around it. Just like in a car or truck if you constantly punch the accelerator at it’s max, it’s gonna have less in the tank than if you keep it steady.
The late June/early July Chippewa Valley Firecracker has always been both fun but a huge nemesis to me. I love riding the trails they have there, but at the same time. That race & the results I get there never show me much love. My endurance work paid dividends as I’d survived the race better than in years past, & though short of my top 20 goal I’d gotten pretty close.
That lead into the July races….
The Duluth Great Hawk Chase, if there was 2 other races I wish I would have blogged about it, that would have been one of them. I’d started to reduce some of the volume of my training but came there without any expectations & having drilled a hard workout the day before. Starting in the back row & getting clogged behind riders in the long climb up the hills that start the race. I slowly worked my way thru more & more people. Within a lap or two I’d moved from 40th to 5th. Riding nearby was Todd McFadden & Mason Basco along with some other bozo. Now, I don’t normally say that, but seriously? This dude was. Mtb racers tend to be in my experience some of the best people to race with, even if it’s intense they are polite and cordial. He broke that mold. Riding a single speed, he felt it was everyone else’s job to make his life better. He bitched at lap traffic and other riders. When I slide out on a corner on a bad water handoff on the start of the third lap (of 4) his profanity laced tirade sent me over the edge. I’d gone down, had to run/walk the bike into a position to get back on. In the meantime, I’d lost Todd, Mason & this guy. They were up the trail & out of sight. Ugh!! I was so mad. I managed to get thru the single track that then lead up a long climb & I just found energy where I never had it before. I brought back 100+ yards. I road past Todd, (with Mason & the bozo) further up front, cursing under my own breath some along the lines of killing that S.. …well, let’s keep this blog polite. And say my fierce competitor switch had kicked in. Todd later said, he’d never seen me so mad. Oops, oh well, just human.
I soon was on “the bozo’s” tail as he was getting gassed and I flew by him with a direct mention to him of working on being more polite to his fellow racers. (Maybe I didn’t say that kindly, but that was my intent). I worked to try to catch up with Mason, but to no avail and then in the final lap that hard effort was costing me just alittle & Todd caught back on & used his familiarity with the single track there to pull away. But a 7th place finish was by far the best race result I’d had in either a MN or WI MTB series race and was pretty happy.
Later that month I had a really interesting experience – something that told me duration/endurance focused training maybe didn’t necessarily take away top end fitness. There’s this small local MTB race in Washburn, WI – called the Brownstone days race. It’s only 10 or 11 miles but still cool & challenging. I raced it in ‘12 with a PowerTap power meter & in ‘13 with the same Powertap meter. Since it’s a short race with a long climb, it’s gonna have a higher power output profile and theoretically the advantage should go to someone who has specifically been training for those high wattage efforts with intervals. And in ‘12 that was the case with me, I had all kinds of intensity. For numbers sake, here’s how they stacked up….
|20min avg watts||338||336|
|30min avg watts||309||321|
|40min avg watts||298||306|
To me one validation that I’d not lost my top end even though endurance had been my focus.
That lead to an up & down month of racing. Ore to Shore wasn’t the race I was hoping it to be, after getting in the front group(s), I lost my mojo towards the end & with it the chance of a top 20 finish. It was my 1st or 2nd highest priority race of the year & a long time goal. With little more than 2 miles to go I was gassed and couldn’t hold onto my position. Did however come away with a sweet bike in the raffle…
and a great time riding Marquette’s single track with Hope, Grace & Marshall..
August & September both wind up & wind down MTB season. Ore to Shore’s race should have been a clue. Once July rolled around I’d cut back on my endurance riding, in lieu of more intensity and for the next 3 races I’d “pop” at just about the same time, just under 90minutes into the race. The Duluth Dirt Spanker, still a good race, finishing 6th overall, but dropping two spots on 4th & final lap of 2hr race. Next the Seeley Pre-Fat, another race like the Cable Off Road Classic I like to gear up for. I’d done everything as perfect as I maybe could. Pre-road the course a ton of times, confidence was very high. Only in my pre-ride I severely crashed my wheel & need to perform trail side Flintstone mechanics.. “Bam, Bam”, whacking the wheel against the ground in an attempt to bring some trueness to the wheel or at least so it could go thru my fork without hitting the sides. Even so I road the best race I could, but clearly my endurance “Bug” had come back.
Lot’s of rest and some great 3x20min intervals & I thought I’d be set for Chequamegon 40. The other race I really wanted to share the story about. It may have been my best & easiest 28 mile race ever… the only problem? Oh yeah, it’s 40miles. I road both strong & smart early on, felt confident. Was riding in the top 15!! And not feeling taxed. It’s pretty huge in race like the Chequamegon 40. Only it wasn’t too last with 12 miles to go, the proverbial wheels came off, another endurance failure.
With only one MTB race to go, the Deerfly Chase, it was decided with me & my new coach, that endurance had in fact been lacking & my body went back to it’s old ways of doing business (more on that later). So I hit up a very long ride between the two races, managed to ride a smart race & hold my endurance to the finish, narrowly edging out Nate Lillie at the end for the win.
With MTB season over & no compelling motivation to pursue cyclo-cross, I entertained running the Whistlestop 1/2 marathon. Wisely, I opted not to. Just not enough time to swap over my biking legs for running legs even if my cardio system could handle it.
I did pursue a few ‘cross race. The local BayCross race, even had my dad there cheering me on. That was really cool because it’s been years since he’s been to an event. Was able to win again there.
My next race wouldn’t be til Nov 23rd. A last minute decision to race the UPCross championship – most horrible race of my season. And exactly zero explanation for it. I nearly passed out mid way thru the race. I’d just done a hill run up, I started seeing stars & my vision was starting to tunnel & get black on the sides. I wasn’t otherwise feeling overly taxed in the race. Maybe is was the stupid cold 15 degree temps??! Anyways, it was unfortunate, but Colby Lash who won it was having a great day & he earned it. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to have a ‘cross race effort in my legs leading up to it. Sometimes the best training for ‘cross racing? Is ‘cross racing.
Because the following weekend, I showed up in Eau Claire for the Princeton Valley Cross race and had a great race to finish the season. Holding my own but still coming in 3rd overall behind two pro level racers in Issac Neff & Corey Stelljes.
Since then? Winter? Can anyone say a lot of it!?!? Holy cats! My plan was to get off the bike, and rest, rest and rest some more. Maybe not get fat. It was nice to put cycling on the back burner, pull out the weights, do some running and go back to being very amateur in my fitness.
It was hard to do mentally, as I never like to “let go” of top end fitness, but my coach was pretty adament that I shouldn’t worry about it. He asks that I get in some running, snowshoeing(good Lord there is enough here!!), fat biking, srength training.
For 2014, instead of battling winter & not enjoying training, we’re gonna target marginal fitness and start seriously later. Maybe not even til March or April when I’m fully rejuvenated & motivated. It’ll be a year of some big miles that hopefully finally crack the code to my racing endurance. Hope to share more next time on some specifics and get around to that conversation about “Watts it Take”…
Till then keep those big ole’ fattie snow tires rolling……