My Season in Review.

My second full season of cyclocross is over. I utterly failed at most of my attempts to add some order and planning to my training. Training Journal, never got off the ground. Training plan, I trained plenty, and it helped, but often there was no plan except for Wednesday cyclocross practice. Overlapping cycling, running and weightlifting, was fine in the preseason, but once I started racing I had to back off the weights, and eventually the running in favor of cycling. I bought a great indoor bike trainer, and had hoped to use it weekly to do sprint interval, but I only managed a few good workout. It’s just so damn boring.
What did work well this year was that the weight lifting significantly strengthened my body, letting me push myself harder for longer. I’m still working to get faster, but my technical skills off road are pretty good, from all the trail riding I’ve done. I mastered a good dismount, and remount, as well as a good carry by the end of last season. That not only allowed me to be faster and smoother off and on the bike, but it helped my confidence since I wasn’t so self-conscious of looking like a beginner.
After not being asked to race for a local team, I joined a grassroots cycling team, CyclocrossWorld.com www.cyclocrossworld.com
No special benefit except for a few deal and discounts on their website, but being able to wear a team kit instead of a plain jersey, again helped my self-confidence. I was asked to race for a local team this year, but after having bought several hundred dollars of team kit items just last fall, I can’t afford to do it again this year.
I had hoped to upgrade from Cat 4 to Cat 3 this year, but despite racing 18 races this season, only 8 of them qualified towards the 10 needed for an upgrade. I was pretty disappointed, but after considering my season, I think that it may be for the best. Staying at Cat 4 will give me another season to place better and work up in the rankings, and with so many Cat 4s upgrading this year it should leave me in a field with a lot of beginning racers to pick off.
I managed one third place win this year at a race on my home course. On average I was finishing 10th in a field of about 30 racer in the CX4 35 yr and up races, and 6th in a field of 20 in the single-speed races. I’m overall pretty satisfied with my results, given how much the number of racers has increased this year, and the caliber of the racers with similar results as my own.
While I had a few off races, for the most part I placed as well as I put out the effort for. During my last race of the season, I had the realization that in some races I was a lazy racer, settling for an easy 7, 8, or 10th place, rather the working harder to catch the riders in front of me.
Racing against the same people in most of my races has helped me see not only where I can get an advantage on them, but an advantage in most races. I also have been figuring out some strategy, such as the right time to break away from a rider who I know can catch me. The most crushing thing for me, is to get passed, then go around a corner and the rider is just gone, it’s much harder to chase down a rider I can’t see, or is on another section of course. I learned to best use my bike handling skills by passing another rider before a very technical section, leaving a bigger gap coming out of it. Even though the rider might be faster, the gap he sees makes it less likely he will think he can catch me.
Don’t get me wrong, I am friends with most of the guys I race with, and when they race well I’m happy for them. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to beat them, and when I do finish ahead of them, knowing how hard they rode, how much they’ve improved each race, just makes it all that much sweeter. When they beat me, I know how hard they worked for it, and I’m happy to have lost to them.
There were three weekends where I was racing two races a day both Saturday and Sunday. Unlike last year, those races were not that far apart, so there wasn’t much recovery time. That takes a bit of a toll on me, and I think I need to just figure on the first race as a warmup and hold back something for the second one. In two of the Sunday afternoon races I was just lucky to finish. This season was also tough for me due to how closely spaced the particular races I go to we’re spaced, last year I had a month long break mid fall, where I trained hard and had improved a lot when I finished the second half of the season.
Racing is a very social activity for me as well, and I know so many of the racers from around Atlanta now, so it’s always great to see them. They have really been friendly towards me, making me feel welcome in their circle of friends, and I really do appreciate that. What’s different this year is that I’ve gotten to know a couple of the faster racers, and a few kind words from those guys has helped me feel even more like I belong, that I’m not just some moron on a bike out there, pretending to race. I’ve also made friends with several of the newer CX4 racers, the ones I consistently finish in front of. They ask me about things like gear choice for singlespeed, and tire pressure. The same questions I was asking last year. I tell them what has worked for me, but just like I was told, the only way to really find what works is to try it themselves.
Now that the cyclocross season is over, it’s time for me to take a break from training, before heading back to the gym for more weight lifting, and back to running, and whatever road racing I get in this summer. I have two post season events first, a fifty mile gravel road mountain bike race in the mountains of North Georgia, and an offroad sprint triathlon, (my only running event all year)

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Luxury problems

I woke up this morning stressed out about getting everything ready to drive up today, to race in Macon tomorrow. As I was slurping down coffee and shoveling cereal in my mouth, my two half ready bikes were already circling around in my head dragging behind them all the things I need to pack, stop to buy, get gas, cash, etc…
I and realized that this stuff is all just what I’ve heard called “luxury problems”. I really am blessed with not having to deal with any real problems right now, and I am grateful for that. I also decided I will just drive up tomorrow morning. I am still not used to Not having to be on the start line for the first race of the day. I’ll have plenty of time to get registered, pre-ride the course between races, and get warmed up. I’m just going to take my time getting everything done today, and enjoy this rich, full life I have.

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Condensed Cyclocross

Living in South Georgia means that I really have to pick and choose which races I make. Most of the Georgia Cross Series races are centered around the Atlanta region. Which is a five hour drive for me. Since I don’t like like driving the morning of a race, I have to plan to stay over the night before the race. I usually camp, because it’s so much cheaper than a motel, and I don’t mind sleeping in a tent.
I say this season has been condensed for me because I raced 10 cyclocross races, and one other event in three continuous weekends. Last year the races I made were spaced out a little more.
This year the Georgia Cross Series started a Master class (35 year and up) in the CX4 category I race in, so I figured I’d have a better chance of doing well. My results have not been very impressive, but I feel like I was racing stronger, and usually smarter.
I did manage to surprise myself with a third place finish, in my home town. I won by half a wheel against a stronger, faster rider.

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My other races haven’t been that great, overall I average about 10th place between CX4 and single speed. I’ve had a few races where I felt good and if I hadn’t of had a few mishaps I could have finished in the top 5. I’m not sure racing in the Masters group was a good idea, since looking at the 35 and under group I could have finished just as well, and the points for ranking are better.
I’ve got one more series race this season (in two weeks) one each in CX 4 and SingleSpeed, it is also the state championship race, and while I don’t really stand a chance of winning, I still plan on racing like I think I might could.
There are a few non series races I will do in December and January, then in February I am once again doing an endurance UltraCross race, Southern Cross. It’s 50 miles of gravel national forest roads in the mountains north of Dalonega Georgia.

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Cyclocross Courses – Nov 4th

I spent a lot of time this weekend on foot on the two cyclocross courses we raced on. I helped mark the course, the roots and rocks, and then the tear down afterwards. What really struck me is how transient it all is. A course is marked often just the afternoon before the race, during a day of racing the course changes and evolves, due to wear from the bikes, so that by the end of the day it is not at all the same course we started out on. Then we take down all the stakes and tape at the end of the day and the course ceases to exist. Just the land is left, and our impact is superficial. Our tire marks will soon fade and the weeds and grass will grow back and the only marks left will be on our souls and our character. I’m sure this likely is a metaphor for something. I think for me it’s often better if I leave that sort of thing for my subconscious mind to sort out for itself, without letting intellect screw it all up.

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Endurance rides for cyclocross

Most training programs start out with a lot of base miles, easy to moderate rides a couple of hours long. This is the foundation that the rest of the training is built on. True to form I have to do it all wrong. I launched into my off season, the road bike season, where I should have been doing base training, doing crits crossfit and weightlifting. I did in my defense have a pretty good base already, but all the intense work I did building strength in my legs and core made me feel like an awkward colt on the bike. I had power, but was not smooth, and I knew my pedal stoke was not very efficient. As the summer ended and having raced crits with sore legs from lifting, I decided to focus more on bike specific training. I also felt like my new strength was not built on as solid foundation as it needed to be.
I had also been running, training for an off-road sprint triathlon, but it has been cancelled, so I’ve been laying off running.
I started adding extra milestone the rides I was doing, putting in 70-80 miles each Saturday, but doing a solo ride after the big group ride. One Saturday and Sunday I put in 250 miles, by riding to an out of town ride then doing a big century ride with friends the next day.
Recently I did a cancer ride with a group (I raised over $1000) for 141 miles on a Saturday, The next day I rode home solo 147 miles, including three stretches of dirt roads totaling 20 miles of my route. 288 miles in two days.
I don’t know if any of this actually adds to my fitness for cyclocross, but it has helped prepare me mentally, and for me that’s where I fight most of my battles.
My first race is only a few days away. This morning I was beating up on myself for not being better prepared, but I rode hard for an hour this afternoon on the trails on my single speed CX bike and I feel strong.
I had planned to have both bikes stripped down, cleaned, lubed, and new cables installed, but I only gotten the single speed done. I have 10 races in the next three weeks, which will be most of my CX season, at least till December, when I have a couple of more.

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Double run day

I ran two miles at lunch, it wasn’t much fun. My knee vaguely ached, a tendon in my calf complained, and I was still at work in my head despite having fled across the overpass, away from the campus. Running has gotten easier, but I’m still waiting for it to get more enjoyable. I’d much rather ride 10 hrs than run for just an hour. I love riding, any kind of riding.
I’m not sure why I decided to run again after work today. As I ran, starting out cold and finishing sweating, I tried to think why I keep running. When I was younger, and lighter, it was like flying, now its just more like crashing into the ground again and again. But then, somewhere in the middle of a stride, heading up the slope of the overpass, I found it. The disconnect, where I escaped the earth and I became weightless, for an instant. Sometimes I can get inside that small moment, and stretch it out to a few seconds where I am only running, and nothing else matters. It’s not an escape, It’s not escapism, it’s arrive-ism. It’s arriving in my own life, in the present moment. I don’t have the discipline to hold that sort of contemplative focus, but when I carry that moment into the world with me I am still able to find more clarity and truth in what I experience, my thoughts, and my actions.
So why do I run? I want to kill the sandy beach section at the Macon cyclocross race in December, or maybe the trail run on the Tom Tripplett Triathlon, or maybe it just helps me be a better at living right now.

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Fundraising: Ignore This Post

I decided to do this ride again this year, because i know it makes a real difference in real peoples lives. The money raised goes to host a weekend retreat for pediatric and adult cancer patients and their families. A chance for kids and adults with cancer to meet other people who are going through the same things they are.

I could create of a roll call of the people I have loaren’t have been affected with cancer. I’m not going to do that, we all have our lists. If anyone inspired me to do this ride last year it would have been Barbara Cox, a cancer survivor, coworker, advocate and fundraiser. She passed away last week.

My goal this year was initially $350, $50 more than I raised last year. I hate raising money, It’s so hard for me to go out and ask people. It’s worse than doing a job interview. I have a lot of anxiety about standing in front of someone and asking for charity.

But Barbara’s passing made me question if I was doing all I could. I needed to ride and think this over. I just wanted to ride. In the course of two days I rode 250 miles, over half of that was solo. I decided to double my fundraising goal to $700, even though I knew it would be a lot more work, and to accomplish that  I will have to go out and ask strangers for money.

I also decided that if I meet my goal I will celebrate by riding my bike back from Augusta to Savannah GA, but unlike the group ride up, I will be alone with no support vehicles. 270 miles in two days.

So here’s my pitch, I need your help to reach my goal. If you can, donate.

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The hardest part of training might be resting.

When I set a goal I create a plan to reach it, milestones to mark progress, and some way to quantify the results. I like racing because some of my results can be directly measured by my proximity to the podium, and my points standing.

I say resting is the hardest part of training because I am so goal driven and results oriented it’s hard for me to NOT be actively doing something that seems to leading towards my goals. I know that rest and recovery are necessary, but If I’m not doing some kind of workout I feel like I am wasting a day.

I have hit the over-training wall before, and for me the signs are extremly inconsistent performance, not being able to recover between efforts, and requiring a huge amount of warm up before being able to put out any power. There are more serious problem associated with long term over-training like fatigue that can’t be overcome by a rest day, getting sick easily, and just feeling like crap (physically and mentally) after workouts, even days later.

For me, rest and recovery is a multi-part process, Part of it is short term, like getting a the protein and carbs my body needs after a hard workout. For me that is often a protein shake when I walk in the door after a hard workout or ride. I follow that up by making sure I stay well hydrated, I make myself carry a water bottle around, even at home. If the bottle is handy I will drink, but will rarely remember to get up to go get a drink. After a very long training day keep water on my nightstand, and drink if I wake up.

My other short term issue is getting enough sleep each night. it’s difficult for me, as someone who has a “different” natural sleep/ wake cycle than the typical 24 hours. My natural cycle would be to be awake for about 20 hours and sleep 10. If I’m not careful I will stay up those 20 hours and sleep only 4. While I seem to survive well enough like that, it really hurts my performance, especially when I’m training hard. I really need a good 7 hours a night to be in top shape. Eight hours would be better, but getting to bed at 10PM is tough enough.

My current weekly training schedule has a rest day built in, with a spot for another if I do a Sunday race. There is one more element that I need to begin addressing, and that is a regular rest week. While I knew this was something most training programs recommend, I have not really been doing it. After a particularly disappointing cyclocross practice, a friend (and coach) recommended I begin doing a rest week every 3 to 4 weeks. Ideally the rest week will be timed before important races. I listened, but at that moment I was ready to give up racing entirely.

I did take a month off from all training at the end of cyclocross season. While I did ride some it was all  short distances and easy paces. I also used that time to review my racing season and decide where I needed to focus my training and what I might need to change. I also thought about the things I was doing right, and the progress I made during the season.

I’m on a long rest now, despite an unplanned spirited ride midweek. I have to remind myself self that resting will result gains in my performance. My body needs a chance to recover from the nearly continuous beating I give it as I prepare for the upcoming season. The break also helps me refresh my outlook, which after months of training with what often seems like very little progress, can get pretty bad, and even leave me questioning my resolve to race.

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Training for Cyclocross Season

With all good intentions I wrote in February that I was making a training plan. And I have spent a lot of time researching traing plans for cyclocross. But when it comes down to it, here it is a month before cross season begins, and I finally have a rough schedule for training. This is for a non race week.

Monday: rest or Bootcamp depending on what I rode on Sunday

Tuesday; bootcamp

Wednesday, cyclocross skills, followed by a practice race for two hours

Thursday; bootcamp

Friday: indoor trainer, intervals 1 hr

Saturday; road ride

Sunday; work around house to maintain the level of domestic harmony that allows me to spend every weekend in October and December traveling to races.

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Winning on the highway to hell

Two months into fitness bootcamp and I’m not where I thought I would be. While the workouts are still always challenging, I find I am recovering more quickly. Not just after the workout, but also between exercises. I have been pushing myself to move from one exercise right into the next.

The biggest surprise for me has been my performance on the bike.

I’m doing a little local race series of crits, road, time trials. Often I haven’t ridden all week, and am still sore from an intense workout by the time race day arrives. Despite doing no bike specific training, I am making progress. I had fully expected to be slower this summer, and I was ok with that. Right now I feel awkward and uncoodinated, my pedal stroke is not very smooth, I know I still need to put in some long tempo rides to get all my muscles working together. I’m still not fast, but I can hold a higher speed for a longer time.

Like I said I am a bit surprised to be finishing as well as I have so far. Often at the finish of the race I feel that my competors worked harder, tried harder, and are just in better shape than I am. I’m not used to success, last year being content just to be improving my own performance.

I finished 3rd and 2nd in the two crit races I’ve done. Yesterday was a 28 mile road race, something I’ve never done before. It was two laps of 14 miles of country roads. During the first lap I realized the 28mm tires on my cyclocross bike gave me a big advantage on the 4 miles of extremely rough rough road. Everyone else on 23 mm tires was taking a real beating, and I know how exhausting that can be. For the rest of the first lap I took it easy, taking shorter pulls up front, and slowing the pace a little when I did pull. When we came to the rough macadam again, I jumped up front and rode at the fastest pace I could sustain, pulling the entire four miles, forcing the group to either drop or beat the daylights out of themselves. We did drop one rider in this section.

When we hit the smooth pavement, I dropped to the rear, and sure enough the pace was much slower now. I rested on the back as long as I could, taking one short pull up front a mile from the finish. I sprinted out of the saddle towards the finish line with the only other rider who had anything left to give. Within 50 meters of the finish line I knew I couldn’t catch him, but then he slowed just a bit and even though I felt myself fading too, I somehow pushed myself to sprint harder.

I know using my competitors weakness to my advantage is part of race, just as much as strength and endurance, and speed, but I still felt bad about having made the race so miserable for my fellow racers. We are all friends, so it’s hard for me to feel good about them getting beaten, even when I win. Still it is good to get some results from the hard work I’ve been putting in.

In a few days we race again, and my friends may very well decide to gang up and take revenge on me, but at the end of the race we will still congratulate each other.

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