Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sharing My Data - Wrapping up the Winter Base Camp.

When I posted last week, I was laying in bed with my legs up on pillows. Trying to recover from the first three days of riding. Let me try to remember where I left off.

We got rain Tuesday night so we delayed our start on Wednesday. There were some tired legs in the bunch so this was designated as a recovery day. A 40-mile recovery day. Ouch! We did some pacelining over varied terrain early in the ride. Then we started taking pictures and chilling. Two guys continued on to extend their ride. The rest of us rode back at a crawl.

We found ourselves on some dirt roads on the way back.

Thursday, we were back in the hills. A little shorter ride as some guys were crying, "Mercy!". I may or may not have been one of them. This would be my last planned hard ride. We started from the house towards a big climb. One we had come down two days earlier. That preview didn't help much as we were now going in the other direction. 

We rolled along the lower slopes of the first climb, trying to remember where it kicks up and really begins. Of course we found it and the games began. Throughout the week, we had gotten to know one another and some friendly competitiveness rose to the surface. Since we were all present on this day, the fireworks were lit up on that first climb. As my legs don't agree with prolonged stopping during rides, I often made a habit of turning around when I crested a climb. Once at my pace, then I'd go down to the slowest rider and chill with them at their pace. That is why you may notice a double peak in my graph data. No pictures from this ride. I did get some cool video though.

Friday would be my last day of riding in NC. The group was undecided about riding. Most of us went our separate ways although we had the same target in mind. The town of Highlands, NC sits atop a mountain range. Some rode form the house to get there. I decided to drive there and begin a ride from Highlands. The road I took snaked up through a gorge carved by a raging stream. Lots of exposure over the guardrails that lined the road. The uphill side of the road was often just a wall of rock. The road had been carved into the mountain. The stream had many rapids and waterfalls. I realized I had made a mistake. I should have ridden up this road.

I parked and did a small loop. Then returned to town to see many of my week-long companions resting at a grocery. They were preparing to ride back to the house and end another 80-mile day. I decided I would join them down that scenic road. Then climb back up to my car to finish the day.

Here is some video from just a portion of that 9 mile descent.  

I enjoyed one last dinner and stayed up late in bed. I packed on Saturday morning and headed out. Next stop? Richmond, Virginia for Monster Cross. A client turned me on to this event last year. I decided to join him this time around. First race of the 2014 season. My new Cognition Canopy made its debut with the bike that inspired my logo color change.

50 miles of paved roads, dirt/gravel double-track throughout Pocahontas State Park. I raced in the 40+ Cyclocross division. There were divisions for those using MTBs as well. While the terrain was not very exciting, the speed was awesome. Mostly smooth surfaces with an occasional root, loose soil, and embedded rocks to keep you honest. 

The Elite men and women went off first. After a small gap, 700 more people were started at once. Quickly funneling into a one lane road through picnic groves and parking areas. Wow, was I glad to find a spot near the front.

As soon as we hit the trails, I found myself in a group of about 20 riders. While we had no interest in making friends, we worked loosely together towards a common goal, Keep riding as fast as possible for as long as possible. I rode in someone's draft for nearly all of the first 30 miles. Occasionally, I'd be at the front. Much more often, I was tucked in behind someone that I was confident in. I say that because the speeds on this constantly changing surface made things questionable. Rocks, twigs, roots, mud and water all came up by surprise. Some high anxiety riding as your view was often obscured.

The group got smaller and smaller as the miles past. I rode mostly alone in the last ten miles. Occasionally passing riders who had overextended themselves early. Also many riders changing flat tires.

I managed to continue riding strong throughout the entire race. Pacing myself extremely well. With so many riders starting at once in many different race categories, I had no idea what place I was in. Someone I passed mentioned that I may be in 3rd or 4th place. That was a surprise and encouraged me to continue pushing the pace. With just a couple miles left, I was able to back off as I had not seen anyone ahead or behind me for some time. Whatever my position, it wasn't going to change.

I ended up with 3rd place. Considering the 20+ hours of riding I had done in North Carolina, I was very happy. So here is the first podium shot of the year. I don't get many of them these days. I look forward to seeing many of you up there as well in 2014.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sharing My Data - Winter Base Camp

An old racing friend of mine, Juan Aracena, has hosted a North Carolina training camp for a few years. He goes down each Winter at about this time with teammates and friends. While I was at the TrainingPeaks seminar in Colorado, he announced a spot had become available in his camp. 

My trip to CO was a bit frustrating. Boulder is a cycling hotbed. When planning that trip, I considered going out for a few extra days. Making it a winter camp of my own. Unfortunately, winters in Boulder are more inviting for snow sports. Instead, I planned to make the trip a rest period.

Our winter weather has challenged all of us. With fewer opportunities to train hard, I ended up in Boulder without the need to rest. I was hanging out with 30 people who are truly passionate about cycling. I returned home eager to get back on my bike.

First day back in Jersey, 17 degrees, slush on the roads, and I have some work to do on the bike. I'm on my cyclocross bike with CX tires and grumpy. My ride was not good. I called Juan immediately after. I got the go-ahead from my wife. I'm going to NC for a week. Boom!

So here I am. Franklin North Carolina with ten other guys. Ages ranging from 23 to 47. Country of origin ranges from Russia to the Dominican Republic. Juan has a small team of Masters road racers. He invited a small group of younger guys from another team to share the house.
Within the group, we have one bike shop owner, three full-time mechanics, and two coaches. All but one of us is a regular racer. The young guys are Category 1 and 2 road racers. The rest of us race mostly in the Masters 35+ or 1/2/3 Categories.
The arrangement here is very relaxed. We are scattered throughout a four bedroom house. We share most meals. Everyone does something to pull their weight. Much like bike racing, Everyone is expected to work. No one gets a free ride.
Juan designs a route through the surrounding mountains. He has an interesting criteria or formula that he uses. 1,000 feet of climbing per 10 miles of distance is what Juan considers a respectable ride. So, "1k per 10" is what he goes for when creating a route. I too am very familiar with this formula although I call it something else. I refer to a ride that has 1k of climbing per 10 miles to be a Death March. This has been a challenging week of riding. 
Sunday's ride, was a brutal start and a shock for many. 88 miles with climbs bigger than what is even possible in New Jersey. True to his formula, Juan's route included 8,800' of climbing. We followed that up on Monday with another 77 miles. We fell short of "1k per 10" due to a climb being impassible due to snow. Regardless, by the end of the second day of riding, I felt like I was on a death march.
Juan continued with Tuesday's route. With some sore muscles and a slight pain in one knee, I decided to shorten it for myself. While others rode from the house, I drove out to where they would begin a loop. When they showed up, I rode with them until returning to my car. I did 50+ miles while most others did 80+. Interestingly, I did have two people join me in the car on the way home.
I'm down here getting in some mega-miles. I leave here on Saturday to head to the MonsterCross Endurance Race near Richmond, Virginia. That will cap off my week. I will race with very tired legs. I was planning to use it as nothing more than training anyway.
Once I return home, I'll share more about my week. I've got a few good stories, more routes, and hopefully some instructional video to share. Sorry to leave you all in the cold and snowy northeast. I'll be back there suffering in the cold soon enough. I hear that the weekend may provide some relief. Get out there and take advantage.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sharing My Data - Winter has not cooperated.

As each of you has noticed, Mother Nature has been pretty mean to us this winter. Honestly? I'm struggling too. Struggling to motivate myself to go outside. Struggling to do actual workouts.

It can be difficult or even unsafe to do some intervals with the weather and road conditions we are witnessing. The roads have been perpetually wet. Snow melt refreezes on the edges of the roads where we ride.

I have managed to keep my training hours up but most workouts have become less structured. Just getting out and dealing with the challenges is an accomplishment.

I've been on my cyclocross bike almost exclusively for what seems like months. Last weekend, it was warm enough that I wasn't forced to use winter bike shoes. I took out my road bike. I was more interested in enjoying a long ride than doing strict intervals. I went out on some of my favorite roads and enjoyed the tropical temps around 40F. I hit the climbs briskly and added a long, steady effort at the end.

Sometimes we have to get creative in order to find ways to train. I took that to the extreme when I bought a Fat Bike a couple weeks ago. It should be more of a toy than a training bike but it has allowed me to ride in conditions that no other bike could.
Sandy Ridge Rd covered in snow.

I took it out during the heavy snow last Monday. The roads were empty. The plows had not gotten to the secondary roads at all. The Fatty allowed me to enjoy myself. Tuesday's ride turned out to be a failure as the snow was too deep and heavy on the trails for even the fat bike. An ice storm came in that night.

Deep snow provides a bike stand.
I went out late on Wednesday night in an attempt to get a longer ride in. I figured waiting would allow the salt to do its job and allow traffic to subside. Well, the slush and ice was refreezing as I was out and conditions got a little dangerous. I was thankful to end that ride.

This weekend called for some scheduled time off the bike. I'm currently in Boulder, CO attending a seminar at TrainingPeaks headquarters. The seminar is for coaches looking to improve their workflow and better use the features in TrainingPeaks.

I'm hanging out with the company founders and picking up some new tricks. I got an opportunity to share a car-pool and dinner with Hunter Allen, co-author of Training and Racing with a Power Meter. Although I have met him before this chance to speak candidly was pretty cool. Would you believe he also coaches professional race car drivers? Helping them to train for the physical demands of their races. We shared some great conversation.

Winter has turned into a real bear but I'm getting by. Not thriving but getting by. The Rocky Moutnains are just a four-mile warm up from me this weekend but I didn't bring my bike. The current Boulder climate is nearly identical to NJ. The views of big mountains in the distance remind me that I'm not in Jersey any more.
Snowy mountains in the distance.