Monday, January 28, 2008

January & feeling good...

Training & training program comes in all shapes & varieties. Stick with the the commonalities & you'll see they all boils down to some kind of easy "base" related workouts and then progresses up to intense race level effort intervals. Each program has it's own verbage, theory and related real life facts to back up why it works. Some are real structured, others (maybe alot) are done on the fly.
The point is most people that study the stuff will say the body taps into different energy stores based on the demand of the moment and that by placing stress over time on each level the body systems will adapt and with any luck you should get faster. Cavet to all that is.... you gotta have rest in between -- cuz as it's said "beatin' yourself up never gets you stronger, it's how you rest and recover that builds you back up". That fact so often is lost with the intense athlete/performer. Which leads to it's own set of problems and disfunctions. Now, knowing the balance that's the key to any program. Don't train enough, you don't tap into your full genetic potential, train too much or too long and likewise your body never recovers enough to reach it's full potential. If you're going to fall on one side other the determine which one you can better live with and let each season give you better insight on how to stay in the middle.
Some people will train on heart rate, in cycling we're lucky enough to have devices to measure power output, and I've even heard of people training in terms of miles per hour (no offense but -- dinasoraus in that thought process. 10mph into a strong headwind is harder than 25mph with a hurricane force tail wind -- so how one can consistantly train that way, I'm not sure).
I, for one, am fortunate enough to train with a power output device & use heart rate for additional guidance. The power device is called a PowerTap there are others on the market this is just the one I started with and it's worked well.
When I really got into cycling, racing & training must have been '04 and one big point that had eluded me in my years of competative endurance sports in high school & college was the importance of year round training. I'd go into cross country or a track season & work out during the season and not do much inbetween. So I never really built on any previous season efforts. Unwittingly I was always starting over from scratch each season.
What a change it makes when you look at things from a 12 month perspective instead of 12 week perspective. Now, training year round can be misleading. I'll be the first to clarify it doesn't mean doing only one thing all year, but it does mean staying in reasonable cardiovascular & muscular endurance shape. You have times of greater effort and times of lesser efforts but the main part is not to ever get into couch potato season and not let too much time elapse to lose what gains your body has made. Read up on it sometime it's interesting to see how long some benefits stay and how fast others are lost.
This season seems to far be the best mid winter biking condition I find myself since '04. I likely faulted just over the side of overtraining last year and it's taken battling a half dozen colds and taking two extended recovery periods (2-3 weeks) this fall & winter to come back to full strength. Now, along with my base training a few mild intervals get tossed in and the efforts (as measured with the PowerTap) are pleasantly surprising. I'll try & toss out specifics in later entries. Hence the "January & feeling good...." subject matter. I'm feelin pretty optimistic for upcoming season(s) -- May/June, a break, then Aug thru Iceman.
It's not so much how good one does against everyone else, rather how you can do against your potential. Vastly talented individuals can take crappy training programs and still do amazingly well, while others can take nutrition, training & recovery to it's utmost and not necessarily have the same placings & results. However, never count out the guy/gal that's the least naturally talented but the most dedicated hard working one in the bunch. I'll happily put my money on that guy/gal ever single time if not for the result then the passion they put forth.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Bike Search....

Ah, cycling fans it's that time of year again. Nailing down the perfect ride for the upcoming season. My quest seems longer or more hell bent this year for several reasons -- first, starting with too many great bikes to chose from! Secondly, my less than optimal 29er Salsa purchase last summer has made me look longer and harder for the right ride before dropping down the cash.

I know some or actually many of the serious racers get a new bike each year. I however was so in love with my Trek Top Fuel 100 it's stayed with me a season or two too long. But the collective experiences of last year were helpful in pulling together my thoughts on what type of bike I'd like to be racing in '08. What it has lead to......

Ah, hell, I'm just kidding... though I wouldn't rule it if my wife has any say about it.
Actually, there's a chance I'm going to take the best of the two bikes I road last year and put it together. The full suspension 26" Trek Top Fuel is just a nice fast lightweight bike that has served me well and the 29" hard tail Mamasita opened my eyes to the aggressive handling & cornering that is possible with a 29" front wheel -- hence is giving way the 69er concept brought forth by Trek. I think outside of Travis Brown and few others (namely Iceman '07 winner Brian Matter ) not alot of people give this concept a fair shake. But sorry folks, in the rear end dept of a bike -- the 29er hardtail ain't the same as a full suspension 26" bike. Bigger wheels don't have quite enough to equate to benefits of a full suspension. Also if you've never road a 29er give it a shot and see what you think of the front end handling and how aggressive you can be in corners. To me, the 29er is a better handling bike, not a faster bike. With my longer torso I'm a pretty forward leaning rider and always had to be delicate with the front end on the 26" bike, on a 29er I can just rip into a corner with alot less caution, not to mention it does handle the bumps better.
So you marry the two ideas -- great! Well, here's the drawback, if you're racing ideally you'd like to be in the 25lb or less category, the stock Trek Top Fuel 69er only comes with the lower cost, slightly weightier components (seat, handlebars, wheel set, derailliuer, etc) making it tip those scales. However, dress that bad boy up with lighter items and you're back in the ball game. (No plans at Trek to currently make a stock model like this however). Or you can take a Top Fuel 9.8 or 9.9 and put on a different fork (my suggestion to min. geometry change is the Fox 80mm that comes on the Gary Fisher SuperFly). Mixed reactions on doing this but if one looks at the geometry specs on the website for Top Fuels or Top Fuel 69er -- they nearly identical in all aspects. But of course the proof would be on the twisty single track and hairpin turns if it gets the job done.
I'm looking to do a few more test rides on the stock models of the Top Fuel 9.9 & Top Fuel 69er before I absolutely go one way or another. And there's also a very viable outside contender in the Gary Fisher HiFi Pro Carbon trail bike, it doesn't take a lot to be very satisfied with that ride either.

Big thanks to the many folks I've talked to in compiling insight and ideas, Brian Matter not just a great racer but a great guy to talk to. Thanks for you time Brian I very much appreciate it! (I'll also plug - he's got his Trek TopFuel 9.9 for sale from last year, I'm toying with that idea as well so don't get ahold of him too quickly....). And Matt Gutowski, former Northlander, now a regional rep for Trek in California, with the inside info only those guys seem to have.

In a few weeks I hope to have a decision made and be on the new ride late Feb or early March. If you're in the market for bikes this upcoming season may the perfect ride fall in your lap. If not, feel free to inquire with me, I might be able to save you some leg work of where to go.

Weather finally looks to be heating up just in time for some nice long training rides to go with the XC skiing this weekend.

Monday, January 21, 2008

January already??!

It's about this time of year I think people get used to no postings getting done in the blogs, with a few exceptions like Charlie Farrow, Brian Matter who always have something going on and fortunately apparently time to write.
What's been going on in the 5 weeks since last showing signs of my existance? Well, hmmm.....

--There's been the great winter biking booots made by Lake that have kept me out and biking way longer than at any point in my previous winter training. Can't say enough about them -- only when it's finally hitting the single digits and subzero's have I needed to retreat indoors. Have some great stories to share...only too much time has passed to give 'em much detail. Maybe later.
--I have to secretly admit that I may have also tried on ...ah yes, ok, I'll say -- CX ski's. Not telling how much time I've spent on them, or if it's been enjoyable or not. I'll let the nordic nuts figure that out when & if I show up at the start line of one of their races. It'll probably be a love/hate thing... love me for coming over to the dark side, hate me if I do too well. :)
--Been cross training pretty heavy this year on top of base riding -- alot of weight training & core training each week, along with a full season of volleyball and basketball leagues. I'm feeling good, strong and flexible. Being injury free is a wonderful thing.
--Immune system has been taking a beating up til early this year however. Probably 6+ colds since Sept, the last one finally put me over the edge to say enough is enough, so I finally took a 10 day break early this month that was well needed. The R&R seems to have done the trick.
--Bike dreaming has been working over time -- some cyclist are happy with any two wheels to race on. I unfortunately need the two wheels. The '04 Fuel 100 MTB served me well and the Salsa Mamasita 29er is fun to ride but for '08 a new race machine is in the works.... what will it be? Catch up again in a month or so to find out.

Otherwise I'm having a great time with the wife & kids this winter. Got a huge 16' X-mas tree dragged into the house with the help of my dad this year, went right to the top of the vaulted ceiling. Looked pretty darn good for getting one the old fashioned way -- treking through the woods, sawing it down and hauling it a quarter mile out to the truck & trailer. I'll should post pictures of Marshall & Hope standing next to it for perspective.
Kate & I went to a New Years Eve party in Duluth and had a great time -- you come to appreciate the adult time you get once you have kids as it comes fewer and farther between.

Lastly, Looking into the upcoming cycling season I'm actually nicely ahead of schedule and that was part of the plan with Jan & Feb traditionally having streaks of really tough weather, did alot of work in December and won't be getting a late start like the previous two seasons. Also the MTB racing schedule I've got planned has an extended break in July this year so I'm going to take a mid year break that hopefully will let me start earlier and do well in May & June but also recharge me for Aug on thru cyclocross racing in the fall. But with still only a few full seasons under my belt each year is one big experiment after another.

Thinking about those of you I'll be seeing again in the next few months. Who'll be back? Whose life has changed so they disappear never to resurface again. What new faces will we meet? And most of all wishing each and everyone of you all the best in this off-season and transition period back to training, whenever that may be for you. So whenever you do get back on the two wheel mechanism be sure to ..... ride hard and keep the wheels down!