Dec 19, 2014

Sanity vs safety

It's no secret that I love getting out on my mountain bike. I've posted pictures of Nick and I in all kinds of weather - snow, rain and the dark of night. We have the clothes for every condition and plenty of toys that allow us to play. And as a mountain biker, doing my workouts on singletrack emulates the conditions of my races. There's a different style of training needed for success on singletrack and as the days get darker, its harder for me to get. Darkness falls early, often just after I get off work. I've done plenty of night time workouts and it's always fun. Pure riding, focused on the bike and the effort, not the numbers. I have to turn internal and get the feeling of what the numbers mean physically. But come winter, the darkness is joined by cold. Sometimes the cold isn't bad and it's easy to want to get outside. Other times, the cold is deep and biting. Not conditions I want to get caught out in if something happens. I have the clothes, yes. But if for some reason I can't put them on, they don't do me any good.

So safety become the priority. And that means the garage and the trainer. While workouts in the dark train me to focus internally and feel the effort at different power levels, the garage is totally different. There is nothing to distract me from the numbers staring me in the face. I've never been good at listening to music - the noise distracts me from what I'm trying to accomplish. So it's just me and the silence of the garage, the whirring of my trainer and my breathing. The cold still seeps into the garage, almost negating the need for a fan. I still have to bundle up with wool socks and knee warmers and can see my breath like a dragon. Steam rising from my arms as I pedal - doing the work in the safety of my solitary, stationary world. 

It gets the work done, but does nothing for my sanity. Even as a runner, I hated the treadmill. I was outside as much as possible - unless there was risk of injury. That need for fresh air hasn't changed even as my sports have changed. I can tolerate the sessions in the garage, knowing that I can play at some point. There will be night rides with Nick and the  Procycling shop rides. There will be adventures on the weekends - fat tires, skinny tires or fatter tires. And most of my runs in the crisp dawn air, watching the sunrise creeping up. It's those little things that provide me the sanity I relish while still maintaining focus and safety. And dreaming of summer and the reasons for the hard work right now. 

Dec 13, 2014

Baseline

It's been a few years since I've done base line testing on the bike - partly because the focus was more on building tolerance to the workload. Coming from the running and triathlon background, I wasn't as strong on the bike as I needed to be for my goals so increasing threshold wasn't as important increasing my ability to handle increased workloads at threshold. I've gone from doing shorter workouts at lower power levels to longer and more intense intervals. I've also been able to stack more workouts together with less recovery. Looking at the TSS on Training Peaks has shown the trends of what I can tolerate and when I need to step it down for a recovery week. All of that work was done based on the threshold and ranges established on the last field test I did. With the improvements I've been seeing, I figured it was time to for another field test and to establish new ranges.

But threshold testing isn't something to be taken lightly and when I picked up the nasty head cold and crud that was floating around at work, I had to postpone. I wasn't in shape to get any kind of decent numbers with that crap! Finally got to doing the testing this week - hid in the garage, just me and my bike and a fan. It was time to suffer and turn myself inside out. In a way, I was looking forward to the testing - I was sure that I would have some good numbers and see a nice increase in my FTP. At the same time, I wasn't sure I was healthy enough to be doing it just yet. I was still coughing and fighting a drippy nose. But I was tired of waiting and I wanted to get going on the next block of training. Besides, even with being sick, I was still turning out some steady times on my running workouts. So off I went, setting it all up and running through the field test

When it was all said and done and I'd looked over the data and done the math, it was less then inspiring. Surely I would have seen an improvement in my FTP and be able to adjust my training ranges up right? Well, there was an increase, but not enough to be statistically significant. For what I got, I could have just done some intervals and not stressed myself out about the testing. I was all prepared to have a nice mope fest given the numbers I'd gotten. Then I realized - its more then just numbers. How can I really compare two tests so far apart? One done at CTS, on the Computrainer with all the variation that entails. Inside, with people around, cheering you on, driving you to push harder and dig deeper. The other done in the garage, on a brand new trainer and with changing temperatures throughout the test. All alone with nothing but my thoughts to encourage me. Not to mention the coughing fit between two efforts. Too many variables between the two tests to accurately compare the numbers. For all I know, the ranges I had back then were too high and I have just now developed into being able to accurately push myself. In order to really compare two tests, I have to be more precise. Same trainer at the same tension if done inside. But preferably, the next time I do a baseline, I'll be outside. The road doesn't change - the might be a headwind one day vs the other, but the road stays the same.

Dec 5, 2014

A New Chapter

It's no secret that I've been working with Coach Adam and CTS for the last five years. I started out with CTS back in 2009, as a struggling Xterra triathlete who was easily distracted by other events and races. Over the past five years, I've refined my athletic focus to better mesh with my life focus. It's been quite the journey, going from self-coached to having the guidance of Coach Adam; to always wondering if I was doing enough - or too much to being able to trust that that the workouts written would get the results I wanted. I knew enough self coaching to be dangerous from my years of running - Coach Adam was able to tie it all together with the multisport and later cycling focus. Coach Adam was a restraining hand at times, others a driving force to challenge me; it was a successful relationship between athlete and coach. One that I'm lucky to have had.

The last five years have been quite a ride - with unbelievable highs and lows and I've been able to count on Adam for support through it all. But as things change and situations change, so to must our relationships. With Coach Adam relocating and shifting his focus to the SHO-AIR Cycling group, it was time to say goodbye and move on. This is a wonderful opportunity for Coach Adam and I wish him the best of luck. As for me, I will be parting ways with CTS as my coaching sponsor. This is a great opportunity for me; the chance to apply the knowledge I have gained on the hardest athlete to coach. Myself....

Nov 20, 2014

Escaping life

Last year's post Frog Hollow vacation was mostly off the grid, dirtbag style camping. It was nice and relaxing - a chance to just settle in to a routine without distractions of the world. We did plenty of off the grid this year, but all spent more time in cities and around people. In some ways, the mix was even better - we were better prepared to head off the grid but were able to make all kinds of connections. And the time alone was that much sweeter.


Sunset at the McPhee Reservoir outside Dolores - got to see a part of Colorado I'd never been to before
Thanks to the challenging weather at the race, people were in a hurry to get home, get clean and warm. With no one left at Frog Town and a brief dry window, Nick and I also packed up our gear and headed to St George. Our first thought was a nice campground with laundry and showers, but that proved to be elusive. We ended up in Snow Canyon for the night - one of the quietest nights I've had. Best shower I'd had since the 29th of October (and it was only the 2nd of November.) After riding and some more searching, we settled on a cheap motel that offered kitchenettes and laundry. Ended up staying three nights - the place was centrally located and we had power, cooking abilities, laundry and showers. We had clean clothes and a cooler full of prepared meals when we finally left town. With the in town came cell service - good and bad. Good because I was able to get a start on the race report and such. Bad because it meant I was able to peruse Facebook and such. Part of the goal of the trip was to loosen the wires and cords I've become attached to. However, it also allowed us to meet up with Jonathan Davis and ride with him twice.


Took more selfies then ever on this trip - kissed by the sun in this shot
Gooseberry was the first off the grid nights for us. A quiet campsite and no power quickly led to an interesting schedule. I would get up as the sky lightened - just before sunrise. It was chilly but it was my time. No distractions. I took advantage of the dawn stillness to stretch and do yoga. Peaceful - moving through the flows on a large, with the sun rising to the east and the moon setting in the west. No sounds but the birds chirping. After it warmed up a bit, Nick would also get up. We'd eat and then get organized to ride. Mornings were riding time. It was a little chillier then, but the trails were quiet. Nick stretched after the ride and I got a snack ready. We'd chill out - read, enjoy the sunshine and generally decompress. Dinner was served as the sun was setting, which treated us to a spectacular moonrise on the first night. And then as darkness surrounded the camp it was bed time. Yes - we were climbing into bed around 7:00 most nights, asleep by 8:00. Not something we would ever do at home, with the lights and the distractions of TV, music and cell phones. And it was awesome, getting that much sleep. I think it was one of the reasons that I was able to keep riding more last year, on harder trails and for longer rides.


We thought about camping at the reservoir, but the wind was too bracing. Found shelter in the trees at Boggy
The next time we were in town and had service, I was able to get a hold of Jeff Hemperly and we joined him for a spin around Phil's World in Cortez. He was recovering from the Moab Trail Marathon and I was starting to reach my limit of consecutive days of riding. I needed a day off the bike soon - but I didn't want to miss Phil's World. So it was a slowish recovery ride for Jeff, a super easy ride for Nick and fun for me. I was slow, I was tired but Phil's World is just too much fun. I did behave and take the next day off the bike, just running a little while Nick was riding. On Jeff's advice, we were in the Boggy Flats trail system. Not as off the grid as other nights, but close. We did a little exploring - heading to the end of the road and getting caught up in a Dolores traffic jam. Missed the new riding, but the running was much easier then Phil's World would have been.

An interesting traffic jam to get caught in... All in a days work
And then Moab. We woke up with ice on the inside of the windshield and discussed getting a hotel while in Moab. There's plenty of camping options, but it's still November and it was getting cold. We had big days planned and not sleeping because we were freezing would prepare us for the big days. So hotel it was, which actually worked out great. We got clothes washed and were able to cook delicious, healthy meals in a warm kitchen instead of shivering over a little camp stove. When we woke up Friday to snow on the rim and cliffs around Moab, we were even happier we'd spent the money for the hotel. We did decide to skip that day's ride because of the weather and started heading for home.


Nick coming down Rib Cage in Phil's World with me in the distance
Truly lucky with this trip - the perfect blend of racing, trail riding and fun. We got plenty of exploring done around St George. I finally got to ride Porcupine Rim. We were gone for 17 nights and only spent 6 of them in hotels. We had big plans for riding and only had one day weathered out - and only because we decided it was time to head home. Not everyone is able to live this kind of lifestyle - traveling around with no plans except for riding and the two weeks was a treat. I was concerned about two weeks on the road prior to leaving, especially when one week toasted me last year. But it was good - we balanced riding, rest, relaxation and running enough to get almost everything done.


The gummi worms I carried with me on all the rides were a hot commodity at times...

Jeff - very happy to play tour guide at Phil's world and regale us with tales of his marathon (sounded like a fun time...)


Nov 19, 2014

Moab Meltdown

Many years ago, while on a hike during a Sierra Club camping trip I wanted to join the adults on a hike to the summit of a mountain. I don't even remember the mountain, but I know that in order to get to the summit, there was about 50 feet of trail exposed on both sides. The trail was maybe a foot wide, just a ridge of rock, with nothing but air on either side for hundreds of feet. Well, I made over to the summit just fine, but panicked on the return trip. I think it took me a hour to cross that 50 foot gap, and only with patient coaxing from nearly all the adults on the trip. Ever since, exposures have been a weakness of mine - one of the reasons I was so proud of myself for not panicking in sections on Porcupine Rim. I was able to block out the tickles of fear and focus on the trail. Well, I wasn't so lucky on the second ride at Moab this time around.

Quick - let's play find the trail along the distant cliff!
We went to the Amasa Back area with no real agenda - we'd been told that Captain Ahab was a great trail and there was plenty of riding there. I had a bad feeling when we got to the parking lot. We drove up a little further and I could see the trail carved into the cliffs across the creek. On either side of us, shear sandstone walls. There was a gnawing pit in my stomach as we started riding, but I was able to ignore it. I couldn't place why I was so unnerved being out there - but there was something.



Climbing up Hymasa - already freaking out about something

The climb up Hymasa was fun - it was a well build chunk of trail that was hard but not over the top. Plenty of things to challenge without scaring and I was starting to feel comfortable on the bike finally. The trail maps every time we reached an intersection were great, allowing us to just focus on riding and not worry so but getting lost. Up and up we climbed, meandering over rocks and slick rock, through small stands of pinons and criss crossing the Amasa Back jeep road. At the top, we had a choice - take Captain Ahab down or continue on the jeep road. Nick decided we would keep exploring and off we went on the aptly named Cliffhanger. I really can't see how jeeps manage that - I would be terrified. As it was, despite how wide the trail was, I was starting to have issues. Maybe it was the chunky rocks and the crash the day before. I know the 1000 foot cliff to my left wasn't helping. 
Taking in the view from the top - huge terrain out there

We took Pothole Arch trail out to the little arch. A fun trail, finally away from the cliffs for a little. Over slickrock, meandering to the north with huge views of Canyon Lands NP. I enjoyed the mix of terrain and took my time to enjoy the views.

Nick at the end of Pothole trail, taking in the surroundings
And then came Rockstacker. The sign warned that it was technical, but I wasn't too worried. If I didn't feel comfortable on sections, I could walk. No shame in that. And it was technical - hard riding that was a little over my head for how tired I was. But that was okay - we were there to explore. And then it wasn't - one section, with the trail switchbacking above a cliff dropping all the way down to Colorado River. I could handle the switchbacks, but not the cliff. That was it - I was done. The nervous breakdown was starting. Nick was loving Rockstacker, but I couldn't keep my eyes off the cliff and ended up walking more then I wanted. And there wasn't any desire to repeat things - I was completely unnerved and out of it.
video
 
Settled a little bit on the climb back up Cliffhanger and then it was time for Captain Ahab. I wish I could say I enjoyed the trail, ripping up and down the rocks along the cliff edge, but I didn't. The panic returned and it was all I could do to stay on my bike. There were several stops for me to try to regain my composure. It was a thoroughly miserable ride down back to the car. I was slow as molasses because of the panic and I was unable to focus on how fun the trail was. I rode everything down Captain Ahab, but it wasn't pretty. It was slow and pathetic as I got more and more annoyed at myself and then more panicked when I tried to ride faster. Ugh. So next time - I need redemption. I want to return to Ahab and come back with the grin that trail deserves.