This past weekend, I led a super mountain bike clinic for beginners. Although the ability levels varied, most had limited trail and even cycling experience. As an avid racer and race supporter, I would like to hope that some would dip their toe into the world of competitive cycling, I understand that pinning on a number is not for everyone.
Thinking about this made me reflect on a post that I wrote last summer, and it's worth revisiting. In my opinion, even the die-hard racer should take a step back from time and recognize their small victories and take time to enjoy the journey. As Ferris Bueller said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
My original post from 7/19/17
Keep on keepin' on!
There is no doubt that winter is here in the Northeast. In NJ, we recently had 14 consecutive days where the temps did not break 32 degrees F. Rough.
But riding through the winter doesn't need to be miserable! By putting in time over the winter, you can set yourself up for a really great season. I switched to riding year 'round when I upgrade to Expert (Cat 1) on the mountain bike race course, knowing it would be the only way I could be competitive. It was a learning process with some uncomfortable rides, but I adapted quickly and never would have though I would be venturing out in single digits some twenty years late.
Here's an article post on the TrainingPeaks Blog that gives some great tips:
8 Tips for Better Winter Riding
Tip number one, dress properly, is so important. With this said, an initial investment in good quality winter clothing will pay off in huge dividends. I remember my first pair of booties lasted almost 8 years, and my heave gloves were awesome for many seasons, with lobsters to back me up on the super cold days. I'm also a huge fan of layers, with an easy zip on the outer layer for temperature control.
Staying warm is obviously the goal. On the coldest days, I'll do a short trainer ride inside to get completely warmed up, then towel off if necessary and get immediately into my winter clothing, all staged and ready to go. Then right out the door and into my ride. I find it cuts down, if not eliminates, that often painful first 15-20 minutes.
Although the weathermen often get the forecast less than perfect, the current wind speed and direction is usually dead on. Take a quick look at this and plan your ride accordingly. You'll thank yourself, and so will your riding partners. But beware.: if you look at the weather on your phone or computer, don't get sucked into social media or e-mails.
And yes, having a planned group ride or even a riding partner is great. I always say, riding partners makes it just that much warmer.
Trainer Session Info
If you're local, come down to our trainer sessions for a great workout and an additional meaningful two hours of riding during the week. Combine that with some off the bike training and solid weekend rides, and you'll be styling when the warm weather rolls around.
Until then, stay warm and ride on!
Much like any profession that is a combination of science and art, cycling training principles and philosophies are constantly evolving and revolving. One component of winter training that has stood the test of time fairly well was long, steady, low intensity rides. Did this survive because so many of us absolutely enjoy riding our bikes that it was a great excuse to go out for 3-6 hours on a freezing cold day? Perhaps. But it also seems to really work. One of the questions that does arise is do amateur athletes have enough time to put together a true base building period?
Recently, more and more research is coming out downplaying the idea of low intensity during the winter and instead incorporating more and more shorter, high intensity workouts. Much like above, is this a push out of convenience for an aging demographic with more responsibilities and less time to train? Maybe.
And then there's the idea of mixing it together. I came across this article in Velonews which cites several studies and gives a bit of a different view on base training while still hitting the long rides.
Six ways to make your base training better
by Trevor Connor
Not sure how this all fits in with your cycling goals, training schedule, and life? Give me a shout and I can work with you to create a training program for your best season ever!
Happy New Year!
With 'cross starting in late August in many places, we have the opporuntity to experience dry and fast courses, relative to what they would be like later in the season. You preparation for these races can and should be different than for the later season cold, muddy, and possibly snowy events.
This article presented by CX Magazine discusses ways to help you make the most of these dry and fast courses, as well as how to use them as a springboard for the rest of your season. And although it's no longer September, we've been experiencing dry and fast courses well into October. I certainly don't mind the ease of bike cleaning!
I particularly like the paragraph:
"Feel free to give yourself some space on these courses too. There’s no sense in letting someone else take out your front wheel in a corner because you were following too closely. You can conserve a lot of energy leaving a small gap into the corner and then coasting through it to close the gap rather than having to brake and sprint hard. This is assuming, of course, you can keep the riders behind you from trying to jump into the gap."
Far too often I've watched racers in all fields follow too closely in these fast races and get taken out by the rider in front because they had no time to react due to the speeds. Or, they try to force a pass and end up taking out the rider in front, themselves, and many times a rider or two behind. When the speed is up, a little space is ok. Keeping in mind the idea also presented above that you don't want to create a gap so large others will want to close it, or one too big to close down yourself.
Enjoy the article!
TRAINING TUESDAY: USING RACING TACTICS ON FAST SEPTEMBER COURSES TO JUMP START YOUR SEASON
As endurance athletes, we push our bodies to the physical limit, and sometimes beyond. I recall the story of the 24 Hour World Championships in 2006 where Australian Craig Gordon beat American Chris Eatough for the title. However, in doing so, he pushed himself so far as end up in the hospital with kidney problems. And that's an extreme example, obviously.
Even if you're not going that deep, what we ask of our flesh and blood can really take it's toll. Active recovery, rest, and nutrition are the keys to keeping rolling.
Belonging to the nutrition bucket, iron deficiency can be a problem in endurance athletes, and this great article published in the Training Peaks Blog helps provide a greater understanding of this.
Check it out here and become informed!
Iron Deficiency, Anemia and Endurance AthletesSEPTEMBER 20, 2017 BY TAYLOR THOMAS
The more we understand about our own bodies, the stronger we can be.
In my pursuit of the elusive n, I converted my old 'cross bike which was currently my old winter training bike into a singlespeed 'cross rig late last fall. I've had a singlespeed mountain bike in the stable for over 10 years now, and a fixed gear bike for almost 20 years, so I was already familiar with the joy and childhood bike riding fun that a singlespeed brings. You don't have to think about shifting, the ride is much quieter, and maintenance is reduced. However, I had yet to race a singlespeed bike, let alone a singlespeed 'cross bike. SSCX seemed like a perfect way to get a little more out of a 'cross race day and to have some serious fun on a bike. It did not fail to deliver!
I raced my first SSCX on a fairly cold day, and the snow started to fall during the Elite Race, my first event of the day. I finished up, quickly scooted to my car to switch bikes and get someone to remove my top number to reveal my SSCX number. And before I knew it we were off. The snow continued to fall, and the fun level continued to rise. As the old adage goes, ask as singlespeed racer about their gear choice and most will tell you it was wrong for at least part of the time. On this particular course, the granny gear climb was the most blatant offender, but it just meant a little more "running."
Although I don't foresee SSCX become my primary race of the day, there will certainly be many more events for me in the future. Locally it's great that the SSCX typically follows the Elite Race, so I can get there at a reasonable hour, get a few laps on the course, race with the "big" boys, then have more fun on my singlespeed. Gets me pumped just thinking about it!
Some of the low-key events, which, let's face it, describes most of the SSCX races, allow geared bikes to zip tie their shift levers making it impossible to shift. This allows you to give it a shot before committing to converting a bike or buying a new one.
This is an informative article written up by the folks at Quality Bicycle Products. It explains singlespeed and gets into gear choices. Check it out here:
(Copy and paste this into your browser. For some reason I can't hyperlink this in Weebly.)
Enjoy and hope to see you riding and racing one gear soon!
'Cross is no longer coming...it's here! The exciting discipline of cyclocross racing has some of the greatest buzz out of all types of bike racing, at least on the world wide interweb. Cyclocross is super fun and, despite the pain we choose to all put ourselves through, very addictive. Even for the most casual racer, "cross racing pushes your skills, both on and off the bike, to the limits.
One of the primary differences between cyclocross and other types of bike racing is that you will most likely get off your bike at least once if not several times over the course of one lap. The most common obstacle that will require dismounting is the "barrier". 'Cross barriers often come in pairs and are typically between 12 and 16 inches (40 cm or 16" for UCI standards) and usually between 4 and 6 meters apart, spanning the full width (3 meters) of the course. Think steeplechase for bike riders.
For most riders, the barriers and other obstacles only take a few seconds to traverse and their bike can simply be lifted alongside their body while they run. Sounds simple, right? Well, yes and no. You are simply dismounting, lifting the bike, running, placing the bike back down, and remounting, but there are many ways to make this process smooth, efficient, safe, and FAST.
Just like that game you might have played as a child, one of these things is not like the other. Or, more specifically, one technique is considered better than the other. Which is it?Check out this great article from CX Magazine written by Adam Myerson on how to properly lift your bike. It's a skill worth practicing!
Easy, right? As long as you take the time to practice PROPERLY, you'll get it in no time.
If you're in the area, BJL Coaching conducts clinics and skills sessions for groups or individuals. I offer video review of your technique to help you learn and improve as efficiently as possible. Drop me a line and we can setup a time to get you on your way to your best 'cross season ever! BJLCoaching@gmail.com
As a professional educator of 20 years, I was able to work with many amazing young people. Watching them learn, grow, fail, improve, and succeed was a blessing. And success wasn't always the "A" or getting into the next Honors or AP class. Sometimes it was finally writing a computer program completely on their own, tackling a Geometric proof from start to finish, or moving up one letter grade on their report card.
I experience a very similar and as wonderful feeling working with my clients now as a cycling coach. Over the ten-plus years, I've been very fortunate to have been able to witness many, many "podiums" with my athletes. From NCAA titles to Leadville Buckles to Regional Championships to National Podiums to International Success. The reason why I put "podiums" in quotes is that, more and more frequently now, success for some of my clients is not measured in stepping up onto the box during the awards ceremony, but in more personal gains without the fanfare.. These might be riding their bike for the first time beyond 20 miles...50 miles...100 miles. Or making up that steep hill on their lunchtime route without having to walk. Or sticking with the lead group on the Saturday morning hammer-fest. Or ever just being able to reach down and grab their water bottle and confidently take a drink while riding. We all have our own rainbow jersey to chase.
This year I've had four experiences that really struck me and reinforced the fact that it's not always about the finish line and the podium. The first two were at my weekly Trainer Session at Cycle Craft. Before one of the classes began, one of my regular participants came up to tell me that he rode outside for the first time this year. The loop was a hilly 42 miles, and he felt strong the entire time. He even passed the ride leaders going up hill, which is something that doesn't ever happen during his rides. According to him, all of this was thanks to the class.
Next, at the end of class, a participant who was hard of hearing came up and wrote a note explaining that it would be her last class as she would be away for business. Then she came over next to me and handed her phone to another rider to snap a shot of the two of us together. Then, she signed "Thank You" which I signed back to her. I was truly touched and that night will not easily fade from my memory. I am always amazed when folks thank me for the class, as I believe the thanks goes to them for giving me the opportunity to train them. This serves to remind us all that it's not about the destination, but the incredible journey that we're all a part of on our way to the many destinations in our lives. This was a victory for me.
Outside of class, I received two e-mails that really made me smile. When the messages came through, we were in the dead of winter. This part of winter can be particularly tough for cyclists in the North East; events have not yet begun, we're all tired of the cold weather, the indoor trainer is really getting old, and we want to get out and go fast! So to have these two notes was super. The first one was from another trainer session participant who let me know that due to a work conflict, she would not be at the last class.. But she wrote "I love these sessions! I'm riding very strong now also- getting back in shape thanks to you!" Awesome! And the final note was from a client that I'm training remotely, who wrote "Happy day last week when I fit into something I haven't looked good in for some time.." Right on!
Sure, the "podium" reports are GREAT and I will always do my little happy dance when I get them, but there are many other reasons to celebrate out there. Keep pushing yourself to improve but make sure you also step back and realize the gains that you've made.
Give me a shout and we can get you on your way to your own personal rainbow jersey!
What to eat for pre-race/event/ride meals is a question of the ages. It ranges from "nothing but coffee" to the "lumberjack special" at the local diner. I personally don't believe that after a full night's sleep starting an event on an empty stomach is the way to go, but I know folks have had success with this model.
As always, if you have any food allergies or sensitivities, make sure you take them into consideration.
I've found this works well for me, and I know many folks are on the oatmeal train. All my additions were gathered from watching other folks and just trial and error.
My "top secret oatmeal recipe" and some breakfast tips:
1/3 to 1/2 cups of rolled or quick oats (with no added flavorings or sugars)
1/4 cup organic frozen (but thawed in fridge) blueberries
1 big tablespoon of organic peanut butter
1/4 cup granola
1 scoop chia seeds
1 tablespoon of ground flax (not on race days)
1 tablespoon of flax seed oil (what I switched back to recently--I like the taste)
1/4 cup coconut or almond milk (or regular whole milk if that's your thing)
1/2 to 1 scoop of whey protein powder
A large teaspoon of coconut oil
A dash of salt if I'm feeling it, but lately I've been cutting this out
Some days I'll fry and egg and throw that in there instead of the protein powder. Might not sound great, but it's good!
I usually just throw the oats and blueberries in the bowl with the water, microwave for 90 seconds, and then add all the other goodness.
I find this really stays with me for a long time, and gives me some great nutrients to start the day.
I always try to eat 1.5-2 hours before I ride, and at 3 hours before a race.
I also make sure I drink at least 16 oz of water before my coffee, then water with my coffee. We can get pretty dehydrated throughout the night.
Other good ideas would be french toast on multigrain bread with fruit and limited syrup (if any). Multigrain pancakes with extra eggs and nuts added.
In a pinch I'll have peanut butter on toasted mutligrain bread. I've actually raced on this with success when I've been away at races. Sometimes the races start so early I'm eating before any restaurants are open. This is particularly useful if no microwave is available. However, as long as you can get hot water, oatmeal is super simple.
I think the three biggest take-aways are:
And, as always, no experimenting on race/event day! Try out any new ideas well in advance under similar conditions.
Caffeine...some people can't operate without their first cup of coffee in the morning, and others hit it all day long. Some folks can fall right asleep after a full cup of high test (side note: studies have shown that this may not be quality sleep) and others are wired out of their mind.
Caffeine has long been a suplement used by athletes of all disciplines, and certainly not excluded are the endurance athletes.
I've been reading quite a few articles recently that shed some new light on how caffeine interacts with our bodies. This is a great article on Training Peaks by Carrie McCusker out of Portland, Maine.
Check it out and weigh the ups and downs yourself!
Caffeine: How it Works For and Against Your Performance
Now, it's time to go get that afternoon cup o' jo...or not?
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.