Nov 30, 2011

It's been a year!

Hard to believe how fast time flies. A year ago I started this blog with just the hopes of keeping it alive. Through wonderful experiences, great people and a lot of blunders and suffering, I'm glad to say that I haven't been starved for content and the blog is very much alive and kicking. 

I promise not to make this into one of my epic 3000-word posts, but I feel that a few lines (maybe even more than a few) are in order to thank all of you who've been reading me over the last year and helped me improve. 

It took me a little while to settle into a rhythm I could maintain with work, training, racing and living life in general, and I appreciate you coming back to this blog to read, or re-read some things even on days when nothing new goes up. I read every comment - on the blog and all the social media outlets where it's linked - and appreciate you taking the time to read and write something. I especially appreciate it when you correct me where I'm wrong, or challenge me on some things I write - this way, the blog is not only an outlet for my creative thought, but a learning tool for me and other readers. I likewise appreciate all the design and technical input from those of you who are more familiar with this type of thing than I am. I recognize that the "design" aspect of the blog could still use some work, but I promise you that it's a work in progress and I'll get on it sometime in the next year. 

To be honest, when I started this, I had no idea if anyone would be interested in reading it, but now a year out, you consistently "show up" several thousand times a month - something I find both very flattering and incredibly humbling. 

I don't intend to stop writing any time soon and hope that the next year of training, racing and adventures will mean another great year of blogging with content to both entertain, educate and introduce new ideas to you, my readers. 

So on this one-year anniversary of my blog, I'd like to say a big "THANK YOU!" to all of you. 

Nov 22, 2011

Golden Cheeta Quickstart Guide Part II (stress score)

Earlier this year, I wrote the first part of the quickstart guide to Golden Cheetah, and at the time, vowed to return and write a separate post dedicated to stress scores and other metrics measuring the intensity of workouts. That time has come, and below, I will go over most things I feel you need to know to comfortably work with the performance manager (PM) metrics. However, this is not to be used as coaching advice; I'm simply helping you use the software and make some sense of the numbers and graphs it generates. What those graphs mean in terms of your performance is between you and your coach. At the end of this post, I will link to several references I found helpful in putting this together, and I encourage you to read all of them in their entirety to fully appreciate the numbers/graphs of the PM metrics and begin to understand how to incorporate them into your workout.

Uploading from Garmin

After talking to some people who've read the first part of this guide, I received requests to post instructions on how to upload your ride from a Garmin unit. Personally, I think the GC wiki has an excellent post (with video) on topic, but here are the instructions in brief. If this isn't clear, go to GC wiki and watch the video. 

1. Connect your Garmin unit to the computer and wait for your computer to recognize it as a drive. 

2. In GC, go to Ride -> Import from file. A Finder-type (I work on a Mac) window should pop up.

3. Click on the Garmin unit, which should appear as a drive, and navigate to activities. 

4. Select one or more activities to upload. 

5. Once GC validates the activity(ies), click "Save," and you're set to go. 

Overview of stress management

Why is it important to pay attention to stress scores, or to keep track of them in the first place? The short answer is that knowing this data helps you peak for key races and monitor your recovery, so you know you're actually recovering. However, the caveat to that answer is that the data you receive from GC is only as good as the data you enter. If you are diligent about uploading or manually entering (how-to below) your workouts into GC, you will have a much more accurate picture of your current state of stress. 

In this post, when I refer to "stress," I'm talking about the physical strain placed on the body as a result of cycling workouts, not the stress you may experience as part of life in general. There are also several types metrics referring to stress.

Chronic training load (CTL): I'm going to refer to this as "long term stress" because that's the nomenclature GC uses and I think it's a bit more intuitive. But when you go to do further research on topic (and you should), just know that CTL and LTS are interchangeable. LTS represents the long term effects of training on your body. As you go from base to build, you should see the LTS graph gently rise as the stress on your body increases. As we get into the graphs below, it will become clearer. By default, GC averages your data for the previous 42 days (6 weeks) to get the numbers for LTS.

Acute training load (ATL): For the same reasons listed above, I'll refer to this as "short term stress" (STS). This is a much narrower view of the stress you put on your body and a much better indicator of what you just did to your body with your workout(s). As you go through your first weeks of base, it will rise more acutely than your LTS. As you go through your recovery week, it will flatten out, and as you enter build, it should skyrocket. Again, this will be clearer as we start working with graphs below. 

Training stress balance (TSB): In the simplest terms, this is a number we get when we subtract ATL from CTL. If the number is negative, you're fatigued. If it is zero, you are neither fresh nor fatigued. If it is positive, you are refreshed. The key is to be refreshed, yet not lose fitness. And that's where you and your coach will have to play with numbers and determine how deep of a hole you need to be in short term (STS) and how positive you need to be for your peak (TSB). More on this below. 

One note on TSB is that terms "fatigued" and "refreshed" are relative. After your first rest week following three weeks of base/build, you might still be negative, but it should be a higher (smaller negative number) than when you started your rest week. 

I will also continuously use terms: base, build, peak and rest/recovery. If you are not clear on what they mean, I suggest picking up Joe Friel's The Cyclist's Training Bible, or in the alternative, browse his blog for explanations of periodized training.

Prepping Golden Cheetah

You are likely one of two types of cyclists: the type who has trained with WKO+/TrainingPeaks and now wishes to use Golden Cheetah for one reason or another; or  you've never trained using a performance manager before and you wish to begin monitoring your progress more "scientifically."

If you are in the former category, you have a few extra hoops to jump through to make sure the old data you import will be accurately represented in GC's PM metrics. However, both types of athletes will need to set up their athlete profile.

Once you have GC open, click Golden Cheetah -> Preferences (again, this is for Mac, on a PC I'm guessing it would be Tools -> Options, but send me a note if I'm wrong and I'll correct this). 

Once the preferences window opens, click "Athlete." Then you will navigate through your athlete profile to set up your power zones and your heart rate zones. 




If you are brand new to training, or you haven't tested in a while, you will need to test your fitness to figure out your LTHR and CP(FTP). You can either refer to Joe Friel's book, or if you happen to have Allen and Coggan's Training and Racing with a Power Meter, it too offers testing techniques to help you figure out those numbers. In case there's a question - YOU NEED THOSE NUMBERS, otherwise the data you'll get will be garbage.

To set up your power zones, you'll want to enter your CP on the right hand side. Next, and this is only for those of you who plan on importing previous workouts from WKO+/TrainingPeaks (or anywhere), make sure "From date" predates the first workout you plan to import. GC is set up to use only the workouts after the CP date to create the data in PM metrics. If you fail to change the date and import a ton of rides, when you go to see PM metrics, you'll have a nice flat line across the bottom of the graph for most things. Don't worry if you've imported and didn't change the date, you don't need to reimport your rides, you'll only need to set up your CP anew and delete the old one. Once you do that, GC will recalculate everything and you should see the data represented in the graphs. 

Once you enter your CP and the date, click "Add CP" and you should see a line item with your CP in the window below. Once you click on it, you will see the power zones automatically populate. You can then change them if you like. 



Setting up your HR zones is very similar to setting up your power zones. You'll need to know your resting HR, your max HR and your LTHR. You can get a good sense of your resting HR by taking measurements as you awaken every morning and averaging that number over a week. However, HR varies greatly based on illness, life stress, lack of sleep, a hard workout the day before, etc. So you should account for those things and take your resting HR on a "normal" week, whatever that means for you. To get your max HR and your LTHR, you will need to test. I recommend the same two references as I did above. 

As with your CP, when you enter your LTHR, don't forget to backdate if you'll be importing data. This date should also be set to sometime before the first workout you plan to import. Now just one more thing before we dive into the good stuff.



Manually entering workouts


As I mentioned above, GC only provides you with as good of an indication of your stress balance as the data you put in. Sometimes you go on a ride and don't have your HR monitor, or ride without a powermeter, or you go to an indoor cycling class and can't upload the data to your computer. GC gives you an option to enter a workout manually.

Go to Ride -> Manual ride entry, and the window on the right should pop up. There is apparently a very minor coding glitch in GC, but when you first open this window, the fields next to "hours," "mins" and "secs" are tiny slivers. You need to expand the window by dragging one of the corners to expand the fields.  Then just fill in as many fields as you have information for and click "OK." You notice that the number of fields in this window is rather limited, and you may have way more data at your disposal. Don't fear, you can enter all of that data in the next step. 

Once you manually enter your ride and save it, go to your ride summary from the home screen and select the ride you just entered. Below your ride summary, you will see three tabs: workout, notes and metrics. Clicking on "metrics" gives you the option to fill in those fields that were lacking in the previous window. As an example, below is my 1.5 hour workout at M2. I know my time on the bike, my average watts for the workout, the KJs and my average HR. To enter those values, simply click the checkbox next to them and a field appears. Note that BikeScore and Daniels Points were filled in automatically, as those were the numbers automatically calculated in the previous step. 



Now we're ready to dive into the good stuff!

BikeScore


BikeScore is a metric developed by Dr. Philip Friere Skiba and it gives a numeric value to your workout. A high score means a harder workout, a low score means an easier workout. Here's an explanation of how the number is calculated if you really want to get mathematical. 



To access your BikeScore, as well as everything we'll be looking at below, you want to click on the "Metrics" tab from the home screen. I'm only going to be using my data from "this month" because I had a period of rest between training where I wasn't really diligent about logging stuff in (shame on me), so I just want to eliminate extra noise in the data. Looking at the above graph, you can see the BikeScore for my rides. The longer rides on the weekend have the higher score than the shorter rides during the week. This is a period of base for me, so the score is primarily a function of time because I do my best to stay in zones 1 and 2 when riding. However, a short interval workout can potentially have a higher score than a longer tempo or recovery ride. The values over the bars in the graph are mine, you won't see those on the graph in GC, but if you scroll to over the bar, you will see the exact values. 

BikeScore gives you an indication of how hard you worked that day relative to your other workouts for a given time period. You can control that time period in Settings.

To set up the time period over which your score is calculated, go to Preferences and click on "Settings." In "Basic Settings" you want to change the value BikeScore uses to calculate your score. I have mine set on 28 days (4 weeks). In short, BikeScore numerically answers the question, "how hard did I ride today?"


Relative intensity


Similar to BikeScore, relative intensity numerically answer the question of "how hard did I work?" Unlike, BikeScore, however, RI is a simple mathematical formula I can wrap my mind around without getting the MEGO syndrome (my eyes glaze over). RI = xPower/CP(FTP). So RI is simply a proportion of your normalized power (discussed in Part I) to your FTP, or as I've been referring to it here, CP. As your fitness improves or declines, it's important to continue testing and update your CP to make sure this and other metrics are true representations what you're seeing. 


Performance management metrics

Now, finally, we get to talk about stress scores and stress balance. GC offers three separate PM metrics you can use, Daniels, Skiba and TRIMP. I will go over all three in this blog, but my advice to you, pick one and stick with it. By the end of this section, you should be able to determine which metric will work best for you. All of them show similar data in slightly different ways and use different mathematical formulas to arrive at the numbers, but because all of that data is relative, as long as you don't try plotting Daniels STS vs. TRIPM LTS and making sense of it, you should be fine. I also find it very helpful to look at several metrics plotted on one graph, so I can see the relationship among them.

Looking at Daniels STS, Skiba STS and TRIMP STS plotted on one graph, you can see that the trend lines have a similarly trending slope even when the stress values are different due to the different formulas. 




Let's look at this in detail. While the general similarities are visually obvious, it is more interesting to look at the differences. Note the difference in the first three plot points between TRIPM and Skiba. Namely, the second plot point is missing from TRIMP. Why is this? Well, the missing plot point on Nov. 2 is from my indoor workout and I didn't look at my average watts before I left. For TRIMP, if there are no watts, there is no plot point. Which may not make it the optimal metric for you if you sometimes ride without a power meter. While I try to do all of my training with a power meter, sometimes I race without one, or as above, I forget to record my average watts before leaving the cycling studio. Thanks to a comment by one of my readers, I realized I had this completely backwards. TRIMP uses HR primarily to calculate the intensity of the workout. BikeScore, on the other hand uses your xPower to calculate intensity. So why is that plot point missing? This appears to be a GC issue. I noticed that when I upload manually, there is no zone indicated in my ride summary, even if I enter my average watts and HR manually. I have a suspicion that TRIMP needs HR in zones to run the calculation, while BikeScore simply needs a watts entry. So unless you're uploading your ride from somewhere, you're not going to get a TRIMP calculation in GC. If anyone has any insight on this, I'd greatly appreciate it!

The next thing to pay attention to is the difference in trend lines among the three metrics. Despite some missing points, TRIMP and Skiba trend closely. They look identical, but because I eyeballed it, they are likely slightly different. However, Daniels is clearly a shallower slope. Why is this? Well, unlike TRIMP and Skiba, Daniels assigns difficulty to your workouts in a linear manner. Meaning that two one-hour workouts equal one two-hour workout, assuming the same intensity. Additionally, it was originally developed by Jack Daniels (no joke) for runners and has been adapted in GC to cycling. 

The difference is clear if we examine TRIMP and Daniels side-by-side (the bars are TRIMP and lines are Daniels):




Let's look at the last three days on the graph and run some numbers. First let's compare the relative intensities for Nov. 18 and 19 for Daniels and TRIMP. On Nov. 18, I rode for 2:58 at 188 xPower, and on Nov. 19, I rode 5:13 at 191 xPower. The ratio of relative intensity for Daniels of Nov. 18 to Nov. 19 is .48. So my Friday ride was 52 percent less intense than my Saturday ride. However, according to TRIMP, the same ratio is .45, so the Friday ride was 55 percent less intense. That's pretty close. This gets even more interesting, however, as we compare Friday (18th) with Monday (20th). On Monday, I rode for 3:47 at xPower of 172.

The TRIMP score is higher on Monday, but the Daniels score is lower. The Daniels ratio for Monday as compared to Friday is 1.07. So Friday's ride was 7 percent harder than Monday's. The same calculation for TRIMP yields .94, making Friday's ride 6 percent easier. If you're keeping score, that's a 13 percent difference! So when did I work harder? I used BikeScore to settle the argument, and it appears that TRIMP and BikeScore are in agreement, 3:47 at 172 is in fact a harder workout than 2:58 at 188. Remember that BikeScore is the Skiba equivalent of TRIMP points and Daniels points. 

[This paragraph was edited from the original version to coincide with the changes above.] From the above, you can probably guess which system I use primarily to track my stress - Skiba. From personal experience, I know that two hours at 200 watts are more than twice as hard than one hour at 200 watts, so Daniels just doesn't make sense from that standpoint. While I sometimes ride/race without my heavy Powertap wheel, I can use estimated watts to get a relatively close BikeScore. As mentioned above, due to an issue between GC and Garmin, TRIMP points don't calculate if you enter your ride manually, and I haven't yet been able to figure out how to resolve that issue. Again, any insight here would be very helpful.

Now let's check out the PM metrics that help track overall stress in all three systems.

Daniels metrics

Below is a plot of my Daniels LTS, STS and TSB.



As I mentioned above, you can see that STS rises more acutely than LTS, and the TSB line appears to be the exact opposite of STS. TSB is the difference of LTS and STS, so as you can see on the graph, when STS and LTS intersect, TSB equals zero - a point where you are neither fresh nor exhausted. I've selected the view of "This Month," but obviously there are a few days left this month and my last ride was on Nov. 20. GC projects STS, LTS and TSB to the end of the month as if I will do nothing for the remainder of the month. Extending the graph thusly, you can see that a few days off will have my TSB in positive numbers. In practice, after the build period(s), there will be a peak period where my training will be tapered and my STS will drop, but not as smoothly or acutely as in the graph because I will still ride, just at a lesser intensity or lower volume - it will be a jagged plot trending downward. How positive your TSB has to be for you to be refreshed yet maintain maximum fitness is extremely personal.

Skiba metrics

This is how the same data is represented when plotted with Skiba metrics. 




As you can see, the lines of LTS and STS are similarly plotted in that they are lines, but the TSB is plotted as a bar graph. However, the metrics should be interpreted the same way. When LTS and STS intersect, TSB equals zero, and the remainder of my explanation in Daniels (above) applies equally here.

TRIMP metrics

TRIMP metrics, when plotted, look very similar to Skiba.




As you can see, I can just copy+paste the paragraph from the Skiba section, but I trust in your abilities to scroll up and substitute "TRIMP" for "Skiba."

Now what?

That is exactly the question I would be asking if I read the above post and it ended with the above paragraph. I've crunched some numbers, described some metrics and gave you a few how-to tips. But what you really want to know is how all of this can make you a better cyclists. In one paragraph below, I'm going to try to digest everything above into some advice you can take on and off the road as you gear up for season 2012.

Upload as much data as possible. If you have no data at all, but are experienced, you can probably estimate. Even if you estimate on the lower end, it will be better than having a rest day recorded if you record nothing at all. You now know how to upload from your Garmin and how to enter data manually, so there is no excuse. Monitor your training. As you go from week to week in base, you should see your STS rise acutely overall and your LTS rise gradually, with your TSB getting more negative. After a rest week, your TSB should be higher (a lower negative number) than it was at the end of your last training week. If it's not, you're working too hard during your recovery weeks and are not letting your body absorb all of the fitness you've gained. As you head into the build phase of your training, STS will rise even more acutely and LTS will continue to rise gradually, with TSB falling. You should see the same trends in your rest weeks in build as you did in base. Once you start peaking/tapering, your STS will gradually drop, and LTS will drop but even more gradually. Eventually, STS will catch LTS and your TSB will start trending into positive numbers. This is the point where you will likely have some of your best performances, but exactly how positive you have to be is up to you and your coach. Lastly, pick a metric that works best with the type of training you do and equipment you have and stick with it. 

References and helpful links

Here are some references and helpful links to help you do further research, or go deeper where I merely gleaned over.





Nov 16, 2011

Rest - where nothing equals something

My mind likes to see cause and effect. I need to see that something comes from something, and I have an inherent belief that something cannot come from nothing. That’s the big picture, and also the reason why certain things about training give me all sorts of mental consternation.

I recently picked up Sage Roundtree’s book, The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery (review coming shortly), and something she wrote really stuck with me and made me realize a few things. Specifically, she wrote about having faith in the fact that the body is benefiting and gaining fitness from recovery. However, to me, understanding that fact is much easier than letting my mind relax and not think that perhaps I should be doing more, or that I’m losing fitness while I’m not on the bike.

I came to the inevitable conclusion that a key part of effective training is to have faith in the methods you choose to employ. This is much easier said than done. Supposedly, all of the base training I’m doing now, with low HR and long easier efforts will make me faster in criteriums, where my HR is often through the roof, that are over in a matter of an hour at the most (usually 45 minutes). I’ve read literature explaining it. I’ve listened to coaches and more experience cyclists talk about it. But my brain still has issues reconciling some aspects of the periodization method with what it aims to achieve. 

When training gets tough, the mental aspect of the game is easy. It is easy for the brain (at least my brain) to understand that hard training improves the functions trained. On the other hand, when rest week comes about, there’s some mental anxiety about how much rest is too much and what do I do to rest but not lose fitness at the same time.

I understand that rest is necessary, and I understand that rest is beneficial, and that a person can come out of rest stronger than having gone in it, but I struggle to put my mind at ease during the sedentary states of training, or states of training under low stress – like base, for example. I hope with time, as I learn more about how my body functions, periods of rest and base will in my mind become part of training. Right now, I will admit, I’m doing my best to go through the motions and hope they bring about the desired end result.

Nov 4, 2011

Powercranks, first time outdoors

A week or so ago, when I wrote out my training plan for this week, today was to be a day on Powercranks, and I was really hoping to make it a day outside. However, the forecast last night left much to be desired, and I went to bed convinced I’d have to spend an hour in my garage on a trainer. But luck was on my side, and the rains passed in the night, leaving a clear, but rather cold, morning – so the opportunity was there.

Originally, I planned to drive out to the polo fields with my bicycle and just do an hour of outdoor powercranking and drive back. But when I got ready, the whole process of loading the bike, driving, parking, unloading and then doing the whole thing in reverse seemed a bit much for 6:45 a.m. After looking at all the possibilities of what could go wrong if I rode from my house, and death or bodily injury having not popped up on my radar, I decided to just roll and see what happens.

Pics or it didn’t happen, right? Here you go:

Along JFK drive on the way home.

I’ll start with descending because when I roll from my house (which is on top of a hill), that’s kind of what I have to do first. I’m glad that the first time I got on PCs outdoors I was going downhill because clipping in with the crankarm down is a bit unusual, so the momentum gave me time to find the pedal. I have to admit that going downhill with both legs hanging down was a bit weird at first, but as I got used to the sensation, it actually felt good – both of my legs could relax and neither had to stay in the flexed position. I was afraid that balancing may be an issue, but it wasn’t, at least not today.

Then came the stop signs and the red lights. I quickly figured out that for stop signs - where I stop but don’t unclip because the stop is so brief - it’s best to pedal backward with one leg and then get started. The alternative is to come to the stop sign with one leg in the up position, but why stress it when you don’t have to? A plus of PCs is that when you pedal backwards, the chainrings don’t move, so there’s no risk of chain drop. Of course, there is a third option of starting with one leg and then picking up with the other when the first reaches 12 o'clock, but that's a lot of unnecessary pulling in what could be a high gear, or unnecessary shifting into a much lower gear than necessary.

For a red light, where I’d have to unclip, I made sure to start in a very easy gear. As I mentioned above, clipping in with the crankarm down is a bit tricky at first, and I wanted to make sure I could pedal with one leg for at least a few strokes to gain forward momentum. Once I had that figured out, the rest was simply a matter of getting the muscles to fire in proper sequence and keep it upright – the latter was never an issue.

Riding PCs outdoors is definitely different than on a trainer. Probably an obvious statement, but just in case you were wondering. The road comes as is and the terrain slowed me down, sped me up and not necessarily in the most expected ways. It’s easy to keep a good pedal stroke on a trainer, where I know when I will shift, when resistance will vary and when my cadence will change. Not so much outside. I had to pay attention to these changes and anticipate them to make sure I was in the proper gear and could maintain constant cadence if that was my goal, or change my cadence if that’s what I wanted to do.

I messed up quite a few times, but never for longer than just a few seconds and I was always able to recover quickly and get back into rhythm. I found that slowing the cadence down and going into a higher gear helped a lot to even out the pedal stroke, similar to how I started on the trainer. Then I could gradually go into a lower gear and speed up the cadence while keeping in rhythm.

About half way out to the polo fields, I realized that I was riding PCs like I was on a track bike – I always kept pedaling. “Why am I doing this?” – I thought to myself. So when the next little downhill came, I just let both legs down and coasted for a bit. It felt good! As I mentioned above, both legs relaxed and after five or so seconds of coasting, I was able to pick up the pedal stroke again. This was also great practice for starting to pedal from both legs being down and picking it up in rhythm.

Once on the polo fields, I just went around in a loop for about 20 minutes before turning around and heading back. It’s a flat .7-mile loop, so nothing exciting really happened, but given that the two longest stretches run east/west, the changes in tail/headwind meant I had to pay attention to my effort. Otherwise, when the tailwind would hit, it would become easier to pedal and a few times one of my legs would go a little faster and caused me to lose rhythm and gallop, but this was fairly easy to get used to and wasn’t an issue toward the end of my session.

One last item that I didn’t really have to deal with this morning - because I was never really going that fast or leaning my bike that much - is unweighing the inside leg when making a turn. It’s important to unweigh the inside leg as to not hit the crank on the ground. While my crank length is set to 145, the whole arm is about 190 (185 being the maximum adjustment).

In case you’re curious, yes, I did do the dolphin kick. It’s pretty neat, but better done in a low gear or on a downhill. In high gear, Newton’s second law of motion causes the bike to rock back and forth a bit – not very efficient. I also did it a number of times as I rolled back toward home on JFK, always either in the presence of other cyclists or when passing cars stopped at a stop sign. I figured I may as well give people something to talk about. Strangely, no one asked me about how I can do that.

On the way home, all I could really think about was going over Clayton on 17th Street. It averages about 14% for .1 miles – not long, but I was afraid that if I screwed up my pedal stroke, I wouldn’t be able to recover and would fall over. But I figured the worst thing that would happen is I would have to take the walk of shame up the hill with the bike – not a big deal.

As I began to climb up Stanyan to 17th Street, I started to gain more confidence. In fact, I was very surprised that climbing a steeper pitch, pedaling PCs felt no different than my regular cranks, but I knew that my muscles were not working in quite the same way. As I turned onto 17th, I had a bit of a downhill to let my legs hang – honestly, this feels so awesome, I think it was probably one of my favorite sensations of the whole ride. Then it was just two short but very steep blocks, and all downhill from there.

This was a great first ride outdoors on PCs, and now that I know I can navigate short steep streets of San Francisco, I’ll be getting out on them more often – and by that I mean that unless it’s pouring outside, I’m not getting on the trainer. Perhaps one of the days next week I’ll try to go a bit longer with a bit more climbing. By the time I hit my build phase, I hope to be training on them almost exclusively.

Nov 2, 2011

Let's talk 2012

While a good chunk of the country is winter-proofing homes, bundling up, winterizing bicycles and the hardcore Midwest riders are mounting studded bike tires, my season has just begun. That’s right, as kids laid out their Halloween costumes on Sunday to wear to school on Monday, I should have been cracking open a bottle of champagne to welcome in the new year of training and racing.

The month of relaxation, unfocused riding (or not riding) and abundant eating were thoroughly enjoyed and by design, resulted in built up excitement for the new training season. It’s hard to jump from one thing to another mentally, and taking a mental break from one season before starting the training for the next was for me far more important than the physical rest. In my experience, the body takes much less time to recover than the mind.

Now that I’m in my first week of base training, it’s probably a good idea to lay out what I’m planning to do this whole season, or at least as it looks now. The worst plans are always the inflexible ones.

This (2012) season I’m planning to focus exclusively on racing my bike from the time racing starts, until it ends. This means that some thing I was thinking about doing next season and other things I’ve done this season will have to be put off until 2013 or perhaps beyond. Not because I feel it’s impossible to do all those things, but rather because I want my focus to be as narrow as possible to ensure that nothing compromises my preparedness to race in top form when the time comes.

What does this mean? Well, for one I’m going to shelve doing Furnace Creek 508 doubles for at least another year. On the one hand, FC 508 is in October, so the race itself wouldn’t directly interfere with the racing season, but the specialized training for it, the arrangements of a dedicated and competent crew, the cost of it (not a small amount) are all things that are bound to detract me from focusing on training specifically for racing and the racing itself. FC 508 solo is still on my bucket list, and I know I’ll get there, but all in due time.

Another thing I will give up in 2012 are doubles. I might do one if it fits well with training and looks like it won’t interfere with performance in upcoming target races, but I won’t be looking to do one, nor be upset if I don’t. This means that there won’t be as many 5000-word epic posts about suffering. Before you gasp in disappointment, however, I’m hoping to replace those epic posts with shorter epic posts that end with me on the podium – perhaps a more exciting read? Time will tell.

Two rides that I will be looking to do again next year, however, are the Sequoia Double Metric – because it’s awesome and in the “neighborhood”; and Ride of the Immortals (a.k.a. Son of Death Ride). The latter I can’t pass up because in my experience it dishes out the most pain per mile per dollar than any other ride in this state. If you know of another, I’d love to hear about it, but I won’t do it next year.

Also don’t worry about Everest Challenge – it’s still on the menu for 2012. Hopefully in even better form, with a better time and if I’m lucky, it will snow (I like it cold).

As far as racing plans for next year, crits, flatter road races and a few stage races are going to be the definite targets. I’m hoping to get out of state for a few races as well, Cascade being the main target (yes, I know it’s not flat). I’m also considering combining visiting family in Chicago with the Tour of the Dairyland and maybe doing a few crits over yonder as well.

Improvement in race strategy and performance are the main targets, with improved climbing ability being in a very close third place. I like to climb, but at almost 6’2” and 170 (hoping to race at 167 or so this season), I can’t really call myself a climber, so I’ll focus on helping climber teammates get the job done in hilly races as well as improving form for Everest, where frankly, I just go to suffer, push my limits and set new personal bests – I like that sort of thing.

Hopefully this new year of training will bring many exciting moments, celebrations, triumphs and of course interesting blog posts.