'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?
I am excited to be a part of TechXpo 2017 at Cycle Craft in Parsippany, New Jersey! Saturday, February 25, 2017 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. There's an amazing slate of vendors on tap, and each one will be doing a short presentation.
Want to learn more about how a cycling coach can help you reach your fitness and cycling goals? Want a better understanding of what it means to work with a cycling coach?
I will be presenting at 2:30 pm discussing what BJL Coaching can offer to you and will be available to answer your questions and talk individually at my "booth" from 12:30 pm until 5:00 pm.
The day is FREE, but please register here.
Hope to see you there!
GET YOUR LEARN ON WITH NEW TECHNOLOGY IN THE BIKE WORLD
Cycle Craft is hosting a customer appreciation event Saturday,
Feb 25th at our Parsippany store.
TechXpo will be operating throughout normal business hours: 10:00am - 6:00pm. Demonstrations, however, start at 10:30am. Join us and learn about the items captioned below in addition to several other exciting topics. Visit www.cyclecraft.com for additional details.
Click to Register for FREE here!
Advanced Fit Giveaway
Many cyclists at this time of year are looking to trim back down to "race" weight after perhaps a rest period and some holiday festivities. You'll find as many diets as you will opinions on weight loss, and the best approach is consistent, reasonable, and structured weight loss. Just as as fitness that is built slowly and methodically will be long lasting, weight loss that is slow and methodical will also be long lasting. This article written by Lynda Wallenfels will give you some great ideas on your way to a solid season.
Read TrainingPeaks Article Here
This is a great article written by one of the giants in a scientific approach to endurance training, Doctor Edmund Burke. He is surely missed but his works live on.
Read this carefully and think about where you want to be at the end of 2017. Set those goals and make them happen!
Starting the Year Off Right
By Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D.
Most of you could ride almost as well as Miguel Martinez or Alison Dunlap.
You probably couldn't ride their times or beat them in a race, but if properly trained, you could approach your potential as they have theirs. While we each have different genetic gifts for off-road cycling, most of us have the ability to fully realize our promise if we go about our training with intelligence and restraint.
Whether you choose to try and maximize your talent or simply to obtain the greatest possible fitness benefits from your riding, the results will depend largely on how you train.
As we begin the New Year, let's explore some of the key concepts used by many great athletes in designing their overall training program for the year.
Much of what separates the good cyclist from the back-of-the-pack cyclist is their individuality, consistency, slow progression, fulfillment and goal-selection concepts from which we can all benefit.
First, you must plan your training to your needs, abilities and routines.
While we must listen to the training programs of elite riders, read books and articles on
Let's face it...cyclists are not always embraced by the other road and trail users. While we can all do our part to make sure we're portraying cyclists as responsible citizens (follow traffic law, yield to other trail users, etc.), it's still not a guarantee that we won't get some grief from a driver or other individual. So it's always nice when you see another rider and you get the friendly, "Hey Man," to let both folks know we're really a family all looking out for each other.
The characters at GCN have a great short little video about this very topic.
Some of you are coming into your big events of the year, some are just beginning to throw down, and the 'cross specialists are working on their base. Either way, your intensity is increasing, and for many, the volume is going up a bit, too. In order to get the most from your racing and training, make sure you take some extra steps to give yourself every advantage possible.
1. Drink enough fluids during the day. I use a gallon jug of water at work to be sure that I'm taking in enough water. Sometimes trying to count bottles or glasses can be misleading, and it's better for the environment to refill. Everybody has different hydration requirements but it's widely agreed upon that athletes need more water during hotter temperatures.
2. Drink enough during training and racing. It's hot...you're going to sweat more. It's impossible to "stay ahead of it" as we often say, but you can minimize your losses.
3. Eat enough during the day and during rides. The hotter weather sometimes suppresses your appetite, so watch your intake.
Side note--check out this article:Lose Weight by Eating More
4. Take advantage of the neutral support in races and rides. Stop at the aid stations, top off your bottles and/or hydration pack, dose yourself with some cool water, and get some calories if the duration warrants. Just do watch your time if you're in a competitive event. It's not a smorgasbord...get in with a plan of what you're going to grab, grab it, and get out.
5. Don't hesitate to stop on a training ride to refill. You can often find delis and the like that will gladly refill your bottles with another purchase. If you live in super hot areas like Flagstaff, AZ, there will be coolers of ice cold water outside of each restaurant--it's the law apparently! No matter what, carry some cash (some small shops still have a minimum purchase for credit cards) and fill up. Again, you can be efficient and not lose too much time.
6. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. This should be the case year round, of course, but the summer offers us some great treats. Watermelon is very high in potassium, which is great to fend off muscle cramps. And the water content of most fruits and vegetables is very high and will serve your body well.
7. Cool yourself during and after workouts and after races. The recovery process is sped up the faster you can cool your core. It's also great for the joints and muscles. A cold shower, or a sit in a cold stream can do wonders. The stream idea can be used mid-ride, too. If you have access to a cold plunge, that's the DEAL! I've found these techniques to be VERY effective.
8. Apply lotion and sun screen. If your body's resources are being used to heal damaged skin, it's less energy that you can spend on repairing the damage done by racing and training.
9. Eat foods that agree with you. Find those trigger foods and avoid them when in the height of training and racing. Again, if your body doesn't digest well, it can't use those resources and nutrients for your cycling goals.
10. Take time for yourself. Try to eliminate stress as much as possible and take a little time for yourself each day. You can't add hours in the day, and stressing over not being able to train like you would to won't change anything.
11. Keep smiling and have fun! Remember why we ultimately all do our great sport!
Work hard and enjoy!
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.