Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Prepping for the ride - Winter or Spring

Looking back it's interesting to see how your knowledge or probably better yet your experiences change the way you do things.

Take for instance winter (and so to be spring riding) -- the one thing the eluded and frustrated me was how to stay active cycling year round and beat the elements.

Here's a couple thoughts:

--First come to admit to yourself that Mid November through Mid March are really not going to what the normal person considers reasonable biking weather. That doesn't mean there's not some super days for riding/training in that time frame. The biggest challenge weather wise generally is the 6 weeks from Mid Jan thru end of Feb. If you can work a strategy of training through these blocks of time you're well on your way to steadily improving as a cyclist/racer.

--Probably the next thing is the biggest most important piece of advice -- it's Apparel, most importantly foot apparel. If you can't keep your feet warm you won't bike in the winter. Period. If I can share anything it's the knowledge I picked up in that area. For years I struggled with boot covers, plastic bags, you name it. I probably did more nerve damage to my toes & feet than I care to admit. Learn from my idiot mistakes and make your single best fall/winter/spring apparel purchase. A pair of Lake (or Sidi) winter cycling boots. Yes, they are in the $200+ range but compare them to cost ski's & poles and it's a reasonable cost for winter sports. Once you have them (and a few other pieces of advice) almost nothing can stop you from riding year round.

--The remaining apparel -- though the cycling industry has got solutions for winter riding at a premium, you can do just as well with any winter outdoor clothing for the most part. What I normally wear? Outside of winter bibs & knee warmers, most everything is a combination of summer cycling gear and regular winter outer wear. A full face mask & ski cap is definitely great to have. But then it's usually only a couple of wicking type shirts/jerseys, with a heavy wool red plaid jacket that looks like I came straight out of a lumberjack camp and if it's real cold I'll toss on my long Columbia jacket/coat. In winter I don't go for the "cyclist" look -- skinny looking, close to the skin clothing --bundle me up like the Abominal Snowman and I'm happy as a clam. This has a two fold benefit, one you obviously stay warm but because your cycling speed is slower the wind chill factor is GREATLY reduced. Don't fall for the need to "look" the part. You can get the same effort or greater for carrying adding weight or mass and really reduce windchill.

--So with your feet warm (also don't hesitate to toss in those feet warmers sometimes), a body protected from your head to toe, the next most important thing is be conscious of wind & it's chill factor. Sno-mo trails are generally excellent for this, most are in the woods and because the speed is somewhat slower depending on trail conditions, the difference can be night and day in how it feels versus trying to ride on the road. If you question just how good Sno-mo trail riding can be ask recent convert Kelly McKnight. After seriously questioning my comments about it last Fall his experiences on the trails in March with Tom Gaier & Scott Chapin have changed his mind.

--Lastly, I used to think all I could or should do was cycling those 4-5 months in the winter. This past year has taught me throwing in cross training is perfectly fine and a well needed variety for alternative muscle development and maybe most importantly mental freshness. CX skiing was my savior this year both during times of rotten weather and for the variety & challenge it presented. Remember most of us aren't getting paid to be in this sport (or paid enough to be in this sport) and as a result it's important to do it for the other denomination that it pays "emotional currency" aka enjoyment. That's not an excuse to drop off training altogether for long blocks of time because you don't feel like it. But it does make it important to make sure you stay reasonably mentally fresh.
Now with the temps coming close to hitting the 40's regularly it's probably still not the most appealing for alot of riders but it's close to being balming when you add in the more direct sunlight this time of year begins to bring. With the snow soon to be gone be sure to look in the garage or basement for your two wheeled wonder and bust it out soon for a ride, you'll be glad you did!!
Up next, spring training, new MTB, Tandem talk and the racing schedule.....

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Iceman doesn't Cometh?

Ok, at least seemingly for me this year. Checked my email for several days after the "random" picks were completed and with nothing coming in I went to the Iceman website and checked by typing in my name... results... Not Selected.
This got me interested in typing in all sorts of racers names of whom I'm familar with that have in the past and could be expected to race the Iceman. Lots of them didn't show up either. Be interested in seeing what "A" list racers get in despite the lottery system. If you think about it, go to the website and start typing in names of racers you know, make a mental note and then in November see how many people didn't show up as being selected -- but still get in.

But the best and worst thing about the Iceman is the transferability of registrations. It's great because if you can't make it you're not stuck with the race fee, but it's not so great because you can register everyone you know and their kid sister and someone is bound to get in. If it's not you, just use one of the other names that's not really going to be racing and ebay off the others if you got too lucky and ended up with more registrations than desired.

What backs up this idea is the fact that some 3900 lottery entries went in and only 2500 were selected if I remember the numbers correctly. No offense to the Iceman, it's a super race and it's a personal favorite of the three Midwest biggies, but the Cheq Fat Tire 40 is arguably the grand daddy of Midwest MTB racing and probably the crown jewel of the triple crown and it doesn't get that many lottery entries. So come on folks,.... with the electronic lottery system (& policy of transferable registrations) of the Iceman it better enables a rider to stack the deck in there favor.

Despite the rather cynical aspect of this post, I certainly hope I'm wrong. Loads of cyclists wanting to get into a race that is held at a god-awful time of year. That spells excellent health for the MTB scene and you gotta love that.

And at the end of the day if you really want to get into any of these races and you know the insides of how the system works, odds are if you're average to above average as a racer you should be able to get in.

Up next..... waiting on snail mail and the Cheq 40 lottery results. Hope they come soon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Catchin up....

You'd think the general reticent nature that winter brings would allow for plenty of bloggin' time. I only wish it was true or I was better at making time for it. But for those that come visit my musing once in a while I'm no Charlie Farrow, I can't fathom how he gets in so much biking and yet seemingly drops bombs on his blog no less than a couple times a week. I think those of us in the bike racing really appreciate how Charlie's diligence in telling us stories throughout winter. It definitely keeps us amped up..... or at least wondering about his mental state & condition. Thanks Charlie!

So, I thought I'd do alittle update & recap of what's been happening for me through that gap of time that occurs between the Iceman & the next WORS race or Cable Off Road Classic. First, I'm not going to make any promises that this upcoming season is going to be better than previous ones but winter training has been by far the best of any in my previous 8 seasons of racing. With the exception of the normal cold or flu that I've had the misfortune of contracting three times this winter.

I've been able to toss in several hours a week of weight lifting and core workouts and illness aside close to 10 hours a week of biking &/or skiing. My coach & I took a slightly different approach to winter training. Getting base work done in Dec & early Jan, and doing a good share of Tempo workouts (20-30min intervals at moderate intensity) during the rides since. In seemingly reverse order in March I'll have a bigger base week or two but then it's into the home stretch of higher intensity intervals in anticipation of an April race or at the latest the WORS opener May 6th in Iola.

I think one of the big keys for a good offseason is finding a system or program that fits your life and circumstances that are going on in it. Know what you are willing to do and not willing to do. For me, I've always enjoyed weight training and with a daily choice between going skiing or biking, I had enough variety and options no matter what the weather conditions were. Thanks to Paul Haltvik for the instrumental skate ski guidance. Now I can honestly say CC skate skiing doesn't feel like slogging through a vat of Jello and can be, dare I say, an enjoyable alternative to biking especially on the windy and colder days.

I took in a CC ski race for the first time in years with the Book Across the Bay in mid-Feb. While I have racing lungs for skiing, I can't exactly say I've got racing legs yet. Was 117th place if I remember correctly. First the balance & coordination for higher speed skate skiing is something I've not worked at, and add to the fact that race is essentially done in the dark. It was the best I could ask for. Funny side line story is one lesson about having race awareness. Each kilometer of the 10k race had some kind of station or marker indicating it's point, most of them seemed relatively benign. But towards the end of the race there's this big ole' marker with an overhead banner, etc, etc..... Let's just say one should not confuse the 8k mark with the finish and put in a finishers sprint to get to it. It makes the last two kilometers rather disheartening.

Not sure what makes the BATB such a popular event, having lived here most all of my life, skiing across Chequamegon Bay at night doesn't hold some magical allure. However, I'm glad it's a race event that I can get to in less than 10 minutes. The folks that put it on have really made it a great festival after this many years and for that reason alone it's a wonderful event to have so close by.

Coming up next.... new MTB bike on it's way.....
What I can tell you is it's very likely that no one else will probably have gone to the ends that I have to get this set up. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

March Already?

Winter doesn't let go of it's ice cold grip very easily. With the sun since mid Feb basking higher in the sky, one falsely assumes that solar heat that feels so good inside on the southern facing windows of the house, translates to an equally nice day out outside without the bite of winter.
When training for an upcoming season it's always easy to think..... Oh, it's March now the riding weather will be getting better. Up this far north, March is still a winter month, not a spring month.
That's not to say there can't be some really good days to get out & ride but with average historical temps at 32 & 33 degrees for a big share of the month, plan for the cold, pray for the heat.

I'm pleasantly surprised how a group email flashed over my MS Outlook last week announcing individuals were starting up the Monday evening rides here in Ashland. That's amazing! (And a beautiful thing). When so often I get razed abit about being the one crazy guy around here who bikes & trains outside all winter long while most everyone else trades the knobby tires for a pair finely waxed ski's. To see anyone else jumping on bike before April is heart warming. Helmets off to Kelly McKnight & Matt Hudson for taking the initiative -- but with Daylight Saving time three weeks earlier this spring and grabing enough daylight to make a 5pm start time ride possible how can you blame 'em?