2014 Week 1 Training – Sweat and Gears

Well, my official week 1 training is complete. I say official because unofficially, I started a week prior to that! But the first week consisted of mainly fitness and power tests, as well as some ‘warm up’ riding to get back into the groove.

I haven’t spent much time on the bike in a couple of months so I hit the ground running to get things kicked off.

I added a Stages Power Meter to my road bike and have been exploring training with power. It has also given me new drive to get my rides in, both for the ‘new toy’ feeling, and also for improvements.

Stages Power Meter

Stages Power Meter

It is interesting to see how my power numbers stack up and what it has shed light on thus far. Unsurprisingly, I knew my actual power was unimpressive, and it further confirmed some of my perceived weaknesses. Hopefully these confirmed insights will give me new guidance on how to address and improve my riding weaknesses.

I am again doing another round of the Time Crunched Training Plan. I am familiar with the plan and I feel I have gotten good improvements with it in the 2 rounds I’ve done so far. Now with the added power data, I hope to be able to add in some additional targeted workouts, as well as better quality in my existing work outs.

So far I have felt really good. After the first week of ‘warming up’, my legs feel like they have some good snap and pop to them, which deviates from some of the sluggishness I have felt on other recent rides. It feels good to feel some strength in my legs again!

In addition to the TCTP workouts, at this time I also have 2 added workouts. On Mondays I am going to Yoga and on Wednesdays I am doing an abbreviated leg and back workout from P90X, including the core/Ab workout in an effort to add some power to the legs as well as keep my core strength maintained. Already I feel like it has made a difference as the slight back pain I had been experiencing on mid-duration rides has already subsided, but that could also be due to just more time in the saddle.

So far schedule has been very cooperative. I hope that this trend continues, but I do know that the familial schedule will start ramping up as Spring comes along. My goal is to never go more than 2 days without a bike workout. It is going to be challenging sometimes, but nobody ever said training was easy.

Here’s to a strong 2014 racing season!

CTS Field Test – January 2014

CTS Field Test

Haven’t done a field test since October and needed to get a baseline test in before training really ramps up. So here goes!

The temps were a refreshing 60ish degrees. Fairly windy with gusts upwards of 15mph out of the west, giving me a fair tailwind for both interval efforts. First field test with Stages Power Meter.

Down to it:
Weigh In: 166 lbs
Test Time: 3PM
Nutrition: Standard eating, bfast and lunch
Temp: 70 degrees
Humidity: 20%
Wind: Gusty tailwind
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Last ride: Trainer rides in days preceding
CTL: 23.0
TSB: -12.4 (falling)

Time Dist Avg Spd Avg Power Avg HR Max HR Cadence
8:01 2.8 21.1 220 172 178 95
8:03 2.8 20.9 226 171 178 96
Oct ’13 Results
8:06 2.88 21.3 164 170 100
7:52 2.88 22.0 163 169 98
Aug ’13 Results
8:00 2.78 20.8 173 181 97
7:58 2.78 20.9 173 181 94
June ’13 Results
8:00 2.74 20.5 171 176 98
7:45 2.74 21.2 170 174 98

Observations : Have lost some fitness since October, which is not surprising giving the lack of riding through November and December.

2013 Race Season Recap

This year was my first year to seriously pursue competitive mountain bike racing. At the start of the year, I had put a goal of finishing in the top 3 in the state series. That turned out to be a bit of a stretch given the level of competition, but it was still a great year.

In my efforts to be competitive, I bought a road bike and started riding it regularly for training purposes. The road bike made huge improvements in my fitness levels and facilitated my placings in the races this year. I’ve put over 1100 miles on the road bike this year, and while that’s not a lot by a lot of standards, that’s a fair bit for me. I’ve put in over 223 hours and 2500 total miles so far this year.

Early on I had a bit of a scare at Rocky Hill. Something off with the ticker, or so it seemed. Looks like it was just unfamiliarity with the level of intensity that I was training and racing at. After some rest and more conditioning, I had no further issues.

Unfortunately, this set me back several weeks in my training and put my dreams of a top 3 finisher out of reach. I still managed to finish decently all year long in the TMBRA series and could have placed #5 in the series had I done the Pay Dirt required trail work. I’ll make sure to schedule better to get those extra points for next year.

All in all I would consider my first year in racing a success. I figured out a lot of things, things that work for me and things that don’t. What to watch out for, proper pacing and managing expectations.

I have now capped off my race season with a victory at the RPR100k. Kirby and I doued in the Men’s Masters (over 35) division. It was my longest race ever but we somehow managed a win! Actually that somehow is firmly planted on Kirby’s insane first lap result, but I’ll ride those coat tails today =)

Next season I’ll be moving up to Cat2 which will double all my race distances. New strategies to learn and conquer. I’m not yet ready to put any goals on paper, but I think I’ll fair okay. It will be interesting!

First place, baby!

First place, baby!

2013 Racing Schedule

02/09 Rocky Hill Roundup 8th
02/16 The Waco Race 16th
02/23 STORM Hill Country Challenge –
03/02 Mellow Johnny’s Classic 8th
03/16 Bent Wheel Bash 7th
03/23 Big Ring Challenge –
04/07 Solavaca Cat Claw Challenge –
04/20 Pace Bend Race 5th
05/05 Bicycles Plus Blowout 4th
05/18 The Warda Race 7th
08/01 Camp Eagle Classic –
08/14 Dave Boyd Huntsville Classic 5th
08/28 20th annual Piney Hills Classic –
10/12 Tyler Speedwaves 3rd

2013 State Series Rank: 9th

11/23 Reveille Peak 100 1st!

CTS Field Test – October 2013

CTS Field Test2 months down, time for a new field test! The past 2 months I’ve been fairly consistent with my riding, targeting 6 hours per week in the saddle and I’ve pretty much hit that.

I did 4 weeks of general training rides and then 4 weeks of CTS training.

The temps this morning were a refreshing 60ish degrees, which is cooler than I’ve ridden in since the spring. It quickly showed with a PR climbing up the Cuernavaca Top Out segment and had 2 good 8 minute runs.

Down to it:
Weigh In: 166 lbs
Test Time: 10AM
Nutrition: Egg & cheese english muffin, coffee 1 water bottle during ride
Temp: 65 degrees
Humidity: 30%
Wind: Don’t think so, maybe negligible tailwind?
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Last ride: 4 days prior
CTL: 46.4
TSB: 3.2 (rising)

Time Dist Avg Spd Avg HR Max HR Cadence
8:06 2.88 21.3 164 170 100
7:52 2.88 22.0 163 169 98
Aug Results
8:00 2.78 20.8 173 181 97
7:58 2.78 20.9 173 181 94
June Results
8:00 2.74 20.5 171 176 98
7:45 2.74 21.2 170 174 98

A couple of observations: 1) I went faster. 2) HR back down quite a bit. 3) Strava estimated power numbers are considerably higher than the last time…

CTS Field Test – August Road HRM Test

CTS Field TestI’s been 2 months since I did my last field test and as I’m planning on trying to ramp up my ride time again, I felt it was good to do another field test.  Hopefully this will give me a good baseline for the next couple of months of riding.

I haven’t been getting much saddle time over the past couple of months so I really expected my test to come out pretty close to the last time, or slightly worse.

The Nitty Gritty:
Weigh In: 164 lbs
Test Time: 9AM
Nutrition: Oatmeal & coffee, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before ride, 1/2 water bottle during ride
Temp: 90 degrees
Humidity: 70% (!)
Wind: None!
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Last ride: 2 days prior
CTL: 33.4
TSB: -7.1 (falling)

Time Dist Avg Spd Avg HR Max HR Cadence
8:00 2.78 20.8 173 181 97
7:58 2.78 20.9 173 181 94

A couple of observations: 1) I went faster. 2) HR increased somewhat.

Road HRM Testing

Well, the spring races are done and with my wife’s upcoming recital, and work overload, I’ve been completely swamped with things to do. I haven’t been on the bike in 10 days, which hasn’t happened since January.

Obviously that isn’t for lack of want, just lack of time! As usual!

With the break, I decided to go out for a max HR test today. I used the Time Crunched Training Plan’s CTS Field Test, which is basically a warm up followed by 2 8 minute all out efforts.

As I was rolling out, I could tell that I hadn’t been on the bike in over a week. While legs were fresh, things felt a little rusty and the warm up allowed me to loosen everything up.

The one down side to doing the Field Test here by the house is that Bee Caves is hilly. Well, gradually hilly, but not all flat as would be ideal. I had picked out a section of the road where I could do most of my 8 minutes with as little steeper descents and inclines.

It was a little hard getting into the groove. Again, just felt sluggish from being off the bike. Anyway, my road segment worked out pretty well, although the final 30 seconds or so of the effort are on a pretty good incline. Good thing that I planned to really push as hard as possible during the final 30 seconds anyway!

The only fail of the test was that when I hit the Lap button on my Garmin, it put in a location marker to auto-lap the next time I was there. On my 2nd attempt, I was riding faster than the first and so my auto-lap lapped me at 7:45 instead of 8:00. Oh well!

Here’s the breakdown:

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 158 lbs
Test Time: 11AM
Nutrition: Oatmeal & coffee, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before ride, 1/2 water bottle during ride
Temp: 80 degrees
Humidity: 75% (!)
Wind: SSW 4mph (negligible)
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Last ride: 9 days prior
CTL: 45.4
TSB: 24.8 (rising)

Time Dist Avg Spd Avg HR Max HR
8:00 2.74 20.5 171 176 98
7:45 2.74 21.2 170 174 98

Given that info, my target HR zones going forward based on 171 AVG HR:

Workout Name % of CTS HR HR Intensity Range (BPM)
Endurance Miles 50-91 86-156
Tempo 88-90 150-154
Steady State 92-94 157-161
Climbing Repeat 95-97 162-166
Power Interval 100+ 171-max

E2 Multisports Zones

Zone % of LTHR HR Intensity Range (BPM)
Zone 1 65-78 111-133
Zone 2 78-89 133-152
Zone 3 89-93 152-159
Zone 4 93-99 159-170
Zone 5 100+ 171-max

Preparing for Big Cedar

In the 2 weeks between Pace Bend and Big Cedar, a lot happened. Not so much when it comes to cycling, but life interruptions that threatened to make me miss the Big Cedar race.

I was really wanting to make Big Cedar, because quite frankly, I’m running out of opportunities to get my 8 races in for the State Series. Big Cedar was supposedly a tight course with some punchy climbs so that would be good for my style of riding.

I hoped for a top 5 finish to help my place in the standings in by both either getting me closer to being able to bump Jeff Jordan, or at least cementing my position behind him. As it stands, I am going to need to squirrel out and get at least a couple of top 4 finishes to be able to sneak into 6th place in the state series, and make sure to get good finishes to ensure a 7th place finish.

The week after Pace Bend saw a couple of good interval training rides, and then a short trip to Houston for the birth of my new nephew, who I have decided to nick name Pace in honor of him allowing me to make the Pace Bend race by being late!

Additionally, I got out on Thursday before leaving town for Houston for a ride on the Greenbelt with Kirby.

Barton Creek Greenbelt

Barton Creek Greenbelt

In Houston, while killing time with the kiddos, I took my brother-in-laws Schwinn hybrid for a spin. He also has a kid trailer, which I was able to throw the 2yo in and cruise around.

I will say, my brother-in-law has a pretty sweet setup in Kingwood. The bike paths there are amazing! The whole area is laid out perfectly and you can get to all sorts of places by the bike paths. I’m pretty envious of that!

Cruising with the Grommets

Cruising with the Grommets

Upon returning home, I got out for another Greenbelt ride. I rode really well that day and had my first ever ‘No Dab’ while climbing Mulch Hill. I then proceeded to kill it while climbing Sweet 16 as well.

The one downside to the ride was that while on Cheese Grater, I managed to dump the bike. Right onto my rear derailleur. Hard. When it hit, I instantly was concerned that I may have damaged something, and upon turning the pedals, my fears were confirmed. My derailleur was in the spokes and required some pretty hefty pulling to bend the hanger out enough to allow everything to spin clearly.

Fortunately, everything shifted sufficiently and I was able to finish my ride. When I got home I replaced the hanger with my last spare and tweaked the derailleur to get everything shifting smoothly again.

I finished out the week with a couple more road rides before getting everything ready and heading up to Dallas for the Big Cedar race.

I arrived on Friday, and after awaiting Kirby to get there, we headed out on a pre-ride lap to check out the course. The trees were tight, the dirt was loose, and the trail was twisty. It was going to make for an interesting race and I was very thankful that I managed to get away a day early to pre-ride the course. Not pre-riding could have been disastrous for race day.

Prepping for Pace Bend

Well, the Pace Bend race is 4 short days away and my chances of making the race appear to be improving. Essentially I’m at the mercy of an unborn child. Not mine, mind you, oh heck no! My sister-in-law is basically due at any second, but she’s not feeling that it is imminent. If the little guy can hold off until Monday, then I’ll be all clear!

Even though I felt my chances of making the race were slim, I’ve been proceeding with my training and preparation for the race.

Over the last couple of weeks I have gotten in some good training rides. My interval training has been proceeding as expected and I have been able to make all of my workouts the last two weeks, including both rides this past weekend.

Turnin Cranks

I did make an interesting discovery after my interval ride Saturday morning. I did my intervals doing laps down at the park on my mountain bike. It’s been a little while since I did some training down there so I was curious to see how things had improved from my previous times. 1 mile laps aren’t really a good indicator of overall progress, and unfortunately Strava is unable to create multiple lap segments so I had to go through and hand zoom the ride to pull out 3 lap (3 mile) data. It was not uncommon for me to put in a good 3 lap effort every few months so I thought that was a good indicator.

What I found surprised me.

While this particular day I did log my best 3 lap performance ever, what surprised me was that my prior best 3 lap effort had come back in September, a scant 3 weeks after returning home from my Durango to Moab trip.

I knew that the big trip had really given me a major boost in the bike fitness department, but it started sinking in just how much of a boost it provided. Looking at my 3 lap times and other general indicators, it would appear that a 1 week trip of riding up to 50 miles per day gave me near the same amount of fitness training as a structured training program covering nearly 10 weeks.

That is pretty shocking! I know there are big benefits to doing Endurance Blocks, but I really had no idea it could make this much of a difference. Now, granted, even these are not super specific detailed measurements, but I think the anecdotal evidence really points to pretty significant gains in a very short amount of time, if you can find a way to cram that much time on the bike. While it only took 6 days, I did put in over 25 hours on the bike.

So the takeaway for me, is to find a way early in my training season to get a big week on the bike to help jump start my training efforts.

On Sunday I headed back out to Pace Bend with Kirby to do another pre-ride and pacing ride in anticipation of the race this weekend. I managed to put in an even better lap than I did 2 weeks ago, improving my time by nearly 1.5 minutes. And that was with a stop in NXNW to let Kirby catch up as he had gotten caught up a little. I think a 47 minute lap is within reach, but it will definitely require a good ride.

I anticipate that first place will finish in the 45 minute range. A 46 minute ride *might* pull in a top 3 finish, but it would be tight. It’s going to be a pretty competitive race as I anticipate all the top folks are going to be at the race. Unfortunately for me, I’ll also be starting a little behind the leaders right off the bat. I have fallen out of the top 10 so I won’t be in the top 10 call up. I’ll be starting on the 2nd row behind the top 10.

Which means I’m gonna have to go a little harder on the start climb than I wanted, but you do what you gotta do!

I have some other thoughts on what I want to do in the race. I guess I’ll get to go into if they work or not in my race report next week, assuming the baby lets me race!

Earlier this week in my interval ride, wifey accidentally locked me out of the house while I was out for my ride. It wasn’t long, but it gave me a few minutes to ride more. I decided to take the road bike down to Commons Ford to go for a PR on Commons Ford Hill. While I was just going for a PR, I managed to bag 5th place, and knowing what kind of effort I put forth on it, I think I have a pretty good chance of breaking top 3. Granted, this is my version of my lightly ridden local track, but hey, I’ll take it!

Bluebonnets in Bloom

IMG_20130331_102017

Not withstanding the issues from a couple of days ago, I intend to keep training as if I’m still going to make races.

To that end, I managed to get in my long ride yesterday, putting in 26 miles over 2 and a half hours. Road Betty from the house to the Greenbelt for a good loop in the dirt and then the return ride home.

I could tell I didn’t ride much this past week as I was feeling particularly spry. I was feeling strong and decided to go for a few Strava PRs during the ride.

First up was Mulch Hill. The loose over loose, chunky bitch of a climb. I haven’t yet been able to clear the whole thing without dabbing, but I feel I am really close to reaching it. When I got to the hill, I let some air out of the tires to help give some grip and hopefully keep from spinning out too easily. I headed up the hill, but there were some hikers coming down. I stopped, went down the hill and waited for the trail to clear. I headed back up on a second attempt and got to my usual first stall point and did stall out as usual. I looked around to see if a better line was had and devised an alternate line strategy for my next attempt.

I rolled back to the bottom and prepared again.

I charged up the hill, in my 2nd to lowest gear, ass ‘on the rivets’ doing my best row boat impersonation. I cleared the first ledge/stall spot! This is the first time I’ve cleared right there so I was feeling pretty good. I’ve cleared the rest of the hill in the past so I felt a strong climb coming on. I climbed up and up, through the 2nd typical stall spot and kept going without any issues. As I neared the last little ledge, my legs were burning and I could tell I was fading out.

I got my wheel up the little ledge, and made the step up! I was going to make it! Except as I came up the ledge, a largish rock was in my path and in my tired state, that stupid little rock turned the wheel and stalled me out. OH MUH GARD! So close! I debated going back down for another attempt but decided to push on and at least get the PR that I was sure I had gotten.

I rode on and was riding strong. I cleared most everything I had cleared last time I rode with one little up. In any case, I was feeling good and not overly winded after the Fence climb.

I continued on with my next sights set on the Travis Country Pumphouse down segment. I opted to hit the road instead of Cheese Grater to stay fresh for my PR attempt. My goal for now on this segment is a top 10 finish, which I feel is within my reach.

I headed down the segment, feeling good. On this descent I felt almost like I could slow time to see the various lines. Lines were almost obvious to me and I was able to make really good time. I easily PR’d the segment, but still need another 16 seconds of improvement before I break into the top 10.

Next up was Sweet 16. Sweet 16 is one of my favorite segments. It is a fast, and challenging roughly 2 mile section that climbs almost 200 feet. It’s a great segment to test fitness and technical riding.

Again, I fairly easily PR’d the segment, beating my previous best by 20 seconds. I’d still like to shave another minute from my time and will be working towards that.

After Sweet 16, it was time for another PR attempt on Cheese Grater. My plan for Cheese Grater was to ride as fast as possible through the endless rock garden and try to look for more efficient lines through the larger rock piles.

11 minutes later and I had another PR!

I snapped the above pic at the clearing at the top of Sweet 16 leading into Travis Country. The bluebonnets are in full bloom!

I wasn’t done yet. I still had 1 more segment that I was going to go for a big PR on. Elastic is one that I have always enjoyed hammering. It is a quarter mile segment that has some good technical spots, as well as tight twisty turns. I hit it hard and managed clean clears on the technical areas and managed to bag a Top 3 finish. A 2 second improvement will get me the KOM on this segment and I’ll be gunning for that in the future.

After all that, I finished out my trail ride on another of my favorites in the area, Washtub and then headed home. I wasn’t shooting for a PR on Washtub, but still got it.

Even after a pretty hard 14 mile trails loop, I was feeling pretty good. Without even trying I managed to bag another PR on the road climb out of Lost Creek up to Bee Caves.

One thing I have noticed over the last 2-3 weeks is that my ‘diesel engine’ is really starting hum. I can get into a cadence and pace and just go, go, go. It isn’t a super fast pace, but I can pound it out, uphill or otherwise and feel like I could sustain that pace for quite a while.

While the diesel engine is running like a champ, I still feel the high octane race engine is still lagging somewhat. I’ll keep working towards improving both the race engine while keeping the diesel engine able to keep up the current output.

All Bets are Off

I’ve secretly been collecting parts and pieces to convert my old 26″ Stumpjumper hardtail into a single speed fun ride. The ole Stumpy had rim brakes, and mid grade components. Seemed like a fun little side project to pick up parts to convert to disc brakes, tubeless tires and finally, into a single speed machine!

I’ve been accumulating used and new parts for several months and the final shipment came in last week to complete the conversion.

Friday night after the kids were down, I headed out to the garage to work on the task.

2 hours later and everything was done! I still have some fine tuning to be done, particularly to bleed the brakes and get those dialed in, but also with getting these Kenda Slant Six tires to hold tubeless.

At any rate, the conversion went well, but when I came in from the garage, all the house lights were off and wifey was in bed. Uh oh, that doesn’t bode well.

Sure enough, my ‘disappearance’ into the garage sparked off a heated discussion about how cycling has become such a big part of my life. And more specifically, my race and training aspirations and how the time requirements have been putting a strain on things on the home front.

More pointedly, any races that are more than a couple of hours away make for truly difficult days as my wife often has work obligations that precludes her from being able to help with the kids. Which leaves me with having to watch the kids, miss important races, and generally see my chances of even completing 8 races for the state series looking grim.

I won’t be able to make Solavaca this weekend. And I will also likely miss Pace Bend in 3 weeks. Big Cedar is pretty iffy. Warda I hadn’t even planned on racing due to the nature of the course. Not to mention that it is yet another problematic weekend due to kids/etc.

So guess what, that means there is a good chance I won’t make ANY more of the spring races. Looking to the Fall, I could make 1, MAYBE 2 of those races.

So yeah, I have 4 races completed, and only 3 of those are ‘quality’ finishes. It is not looking likely that I’ll even get 8 races through the whole year, let alone 8 quality finishes.

It is disappointing, not to mention aggravating that it is so difficult, neigh impossible, to get even that small amount of available time. And as long as I hold out hope that I can possibly make races, the greater the disappointment when I don’t get to make them.

It would be so much easier, and less stress, to give it up. To not worry about my racing goals for this year. Obviously that is a painful thought as I’ve already devoted so much to that goal this year.

I’m still not willing to give it up just yet, but I think with forced missing of Solavaca and Pace Bend that I’ll be ready to call it quits. It’ll be all but over at that point anyway…