Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mtbnj's Short Track Adventure

This past Sunday was the first time I have raced on dirt this year. Well dirt is a loose term for the actual surface I would be racing on. There was probably 50 feet of actual dirt and another mile of ice, snow, and slop to get through before hitting the start/finish and doing it all over again. The race was supposed to be a 45 minute race and it ended up being just about that.

We took off from the start and I was in the third row of 24 people. The racers in front of me cleared out and gassed it and I jumped on their wheel. Up the pavement climb it went hot and not something my body was used to. I have done close to zero high end efforts this year and I felt it. My body was in shock. I ignored it and pressed on harder to pass a couple on the second lap but then my body was telling me to slow down. I had to. I had zero warmup and I was actually happy to go as hard as I did for that long. So at that point I settled in and tried to get the diesel going - which is the wrong type of motor but it's what I had. The worst part is that with each hard effort I could feel my worn cassete misshifting and not letting me use the gears I needed. Frustrating to say the least. Then my chain dropped. Ok - so it was a day to shake the bugs out.

In the end I kept the motor going but still finished pretty well. I was 8th of 24 and pretty happy with the result. A rider came up on me hard in the last lap but I rode steady and smooth to keep him from passing as I charged to the line just ahead of him. I know I could have done a lot better if a few more things came together but it reminds me that I still have the drive and legs to be competitive out there even in early season form.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Day #8 - Training Camp Weekend

Each year I try to get in a training camp to kickoff the season. I attempted to do this back on President's weekend in February but that was a flat out fail. #1 was that it was an absolute arctic weekend and would have made any riding very miserable, and #2 I was sick as a dog. Ok I don't get that cliche since my dog is happy even when she feels bad but I had zero energy and it was hard enough to leave my bed, never mind the house to go for a long bicycle ride. So I chose this weekend as it's a few weeks before my first hard test of the year - the Michaux Endurance race.

In previous years I've been part of a group that rallied together to go to some nicer weather regions and get some miles in as a collective and supportive unit. Blacksburg VA was one year, State College PA was another, and Flemington NJ was the last. Each year it seems to be ranging closer to home with more riders having family obligations and really not able to pull the trigger and get away. As I get older and more responsible I face the same dilemma, and it's really a good one to have. So I didn't get to go ride in AZ or FL and get a sunburn on my training camp weekend, but I'll make the best of what ever I can put together and help prep myself for a hard season ahead.

This weekend started out with a 2.5 hour ride Friday, a 7 hour century+ ride Saturday, a 4+ hour ride today and a 2 hour ride tomorrow. Each of the days searching out some nice steady hills to get the body ready for long days in the saddle and some tough consecutive days as well. Friday was a nice loop around my local area that included a few moderate hills. I felt pretty good but definitely reminded myself that there were a lot of miles to go this weekend. Saturday was the century ride so I aimed for the Tour de Lake race loop and then more. The TDL loop is 40 miles with some extensive climbing, and I know it pretty well. The day would prove to be warmer then Friday but only in theory it seemed. It was like the arctic tundra riding around Lake Hopatcong. It was frigid. The sun tried to fool you by looking warm, but the high winds coming off the lake said otherwise. It was great to get that loop over and then run for cover in some of the other areas that made better use of the sunshine. Today, Sunday, was another good few hours in the saddle and a test of how the legs felt after a 7 hour ride the previous day. They felt better than expected. A little tired here or there but when I needed them to punch of something steep they answered. Power was pretty steady and generally felt pretty good. The weather was more pleasant today too with warmer temps - warmer than any of the previous few days - but some mysterious rain showers that were not forecasted as well. They were just showers thankfully, so they just dissipated and moved on.

In general I'd call the weekend a success. I got to do a lot of great riding, and ride with a few teammates that I haven't seen in a while. Most of this winter I've been suffering alone, and it was great to torture - I mean ride with some others with similar goals. That alone was worth it. So even though I wasn't riding somewhere exotic, I got to do my riding and see my wife and dog which is great to come home too after putting so much physical stress on my body.

Also an update as today being day #8 of no crap in my diet. It's generally going well. I've been avoiding sugary drinks, and all the cookies and sweets that I normally consumed during the winter. It's been hard - but I can see the end goal. The winter is always hard as I think humans in general put on some extra pounds, but it's how you respond to it that makes the difference. I'm not putting up with this and by honing my diet it'll get me to where I want to be performance wise and weight wise. As of today I've lost 4 pounds or so and getting closer to the 160's again which I haven't seen since November. I'm dealing with the wonky feelings that come with kicking sugar and it can be rough but knowing that I'm cleansing my body and dropping the weight helps give me motivation to keep going. The biggest marker is hitting the scale each morning. That's what really keeps me in check when I have those hunger cravings.

Now don't get me wrong I'm not doing some anorexic diet, I'm substituting my normal cravings with smarter, healthier choices that serve more of a purpose than feeding my sugar cravings. The more I get away from sugar the easier it is. Hell yes do I want to make a batch of brownies or cookies and eat the whole thing. But that's not what is going to help me in the long run. Cleaner, more nutritious, and more variety is what I'm going for to make it a sustainable habit and I'll see where it goes from here. The goal would to be mid to low 160's by my first big race the 6 hours of Warrior Creek in April. We'll see...

Monday, March 2, 2015

I've Declared the Winter Officially Over...

As of March 1st the winter is over. I don't care what the calendar says or some stupid groundhog, it's done. It's probably more because of the face that I've been so busy this past winter that it's been really hard to stay on top of riding and preparing to race. December through February I've been preoccupied with coaching my high school ski team and it takes soooo much time and effort. I love it. It's something different and the kids really enjoy it. Plus I get to enjoy a lot of days on snow each winter. This was year 3 of coaching and I still can't seem to get the hang of riding and skiing through the winter. I've been left with the thought of consoling myself with the idea that I am still keeping in shape while skiing, even though it leaves less time to ride. That sounds good until I ride and can definitely feel my fitness lagging a bit - even if it's only a bit. But then, even if there was no ski team I think my riding would slow a bit just because of the whole daylight savings time. I think it effects more than most but it's just hard to stay motivated this time of year with less daylight and the cold temperatures. The best we can do is just endure and take advantage of the better condition when they come...any they are just about here.

I have a full schedule on the calendar and a few of the early season races to kick me into high gear so to speak. Once I feel the tension of race pace it usually helps to springboard me back into some fitness and better racing form. At least the good part, if there is a good part of gaining weight, is that even though I didn't watch my nutrition too closely, that it plateau'd and didn't really get ugly. With that being said - it's just not acceptable to be at my current weight and thinking of maintaining this AND having a great race season. Last season I raced in between 162-167 with pretty good results, although I knew they could be better. I had a few good race seasons racing at 155-157 and wondered what it would be like to get back to that. Well it's time. With the help of a buddy we talked a lot about March being the month to really focus on getting in shape and also testing our bodies out a bit.

So as of March 1st I've agreed to cut the crap out of my diet and aim for that 157 race weight. If I can maintain that this season, it would really help me get to the form I know I can have and hopefully piece together my season with some better finishes this year. I want all the pieces to come together. New coach, light weight, good training, and a desire to hurt myself could help put me in the place I want to be at some of my favorite races. I'm gonna give it my best shot.

Today it's day 2 of no crap. This means no chocolate that I love, no cookies, no refined sugars, just good natural foods. I've already gotten rid of soda - 2 months with none is a great start. So why not cut the rest of the junk. I've done this plenty of times before and it really does help once I get over the first couple wonky days. It's good to test the body and see how it reacts. When I sit down and really think of some of the foods that I eat, it's not horrible but it could definitely be better. That's the main point. I don't want to eat less, I just want to eat the right foods. So this means stocking up on the good stuff. Lots of chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, fruits and veggies. I'm also trying to limit the amount of cheese I eat too as that's always been a staple of my diet but that's got to go as well. I won't say I'll stop eating it altogether but limiting it will be a big plus. It's all part of the master plan.

The start of my race schedule will begin sooner than I can really fathom at this point. The next few weekends I'll probably jump in a few crits or short track races to feel out the legs and then use the 4 hour Michaux race to help prep me for the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek. All of this will be preceded by the big weekend that I am setting up for myself this coming weekend. I wasn't able to get my training camp weekend done in February since I was sick so now this is the next best thing. Plus the weather will be MUCH better. I can't wait. Time to catch up a bit and look forward to those longer days and lots more daylight.