Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sport Specific Training

I've been thinking a lot about how to improve my mountain bike racing performances.  The obvious answer is to spend more time on my bike, the problem is that it isn't really practical for me due to time constraints.  

I've always considered myself a runner and running has really helped my overall fitness.  I run at least 5 miles almost every day and it's become part of my routine.  It doesn't take much time for me to head out the door, run my regular route, come home and shower; but to go for a bike ride is a 2+ hour commitment so I really only do it a few times a week. 

The reason I'm concerned is the hardest part of racing for me are the hills.  If I push hard going uphill it doesn't take long for my legs to run out of juice.  I don't get winded, but my legs start to burn and feel weak.  I'm trying to figure out how to fix that and I don't think any amount of running will make a difference.

I'm thinking about trying an indoor trainer.  I would be able to set the resistance and that might help.  Maybe I just need to approach the time I am able to ride differently; like go for more rides at Busiek where the hills are longer.  I don't know.

I love mountain biking and I've been having a lot of fun at the races.  I just wish I could ride more.....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Show-Me State Games/MWFTS mountain bike race recap

Yesterday was the Show-Me State Games/Midwest Fat Tire Series race at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park in Columbia. It was a great event.

My significant other and I left Springfield at 7:30 and had a nice uneventful drive to the park. We arrived at about 10:30 and since I'd never ridden the trails there I registered for the race and went out for a nice easy lap to check out the course. My first impression was that it was going to be a very fast paced race. There were hills but it seemed like most of the course was flat. Very curvy, but pretty flat. Some of the interesting things about the course was a creek crossing with about 8 inches of water, about a quarter mile section on a gravel road and the trials through a couple fields. The rest was just good old fashioned singletrack. I finished my exploratory lap in about 50 minutes so I knew it was going to be a 3 lap race. The distance measured 8 miles on my bike computer; a bit farther than the 7 mile course at the Sac River race.

There were a lot of riders for the various classes; 138 according to the race results sheet. As we gathered near the starting line for the 12:30 start for the expert and sport classes I met Rock Wamsley, the second place finisher in my class at the Sac River race 2 weeks before. He didn't pre-ride the course so I tried to give him a few tips of what to look out for. I hope it helped because he won the race pretty convincingly.

When the race started there were 17 riders in the 30-39 sport group and I was in the second row. There was about a 50 yard sprint in a fairly wide lane on open grass before we turned into the single track. Having learned the lesson about hitting the trails in the middle of the pack at the last race I took off pretty fast and was in fourth place when we got into the woods. The rider in front of me as a pretty tall fellow on a 29er and for some reason he was slowing down quite a bit on the turns. The trail was pretty rough in that section but I hate slowing down on turns so I passed him at the first opportunity and spent the rest of the first half of the first lap passing the slower 29-under sport riders that started a minute ahead of us. They were all very good about giving berth to pass when I yelled that I wasn't in their class. In fact that was the case all day; nobody tried to block me like a few did during the Sac River event.

During that lap I lost track of who was ahead of me in my class. I knew Rock was up there somewhere as he got the hole shot at the start and after about 10 minutes into the race I never saw him again, but I thought I was in second. About 15 minutes into the lap I was riding along on a flat section and started to take a drink from my camelbak. I must have hit something because I felt a jolt on my left foot and all of a sudden I was flying through the air going over my handle bars. It felt like it was in slow motion. I was just thinking, oh crap. Luckily I unclipped out of my pedals and landed in dirt on my right shoulder and nothing hurt, so I just jumped back on my bike and took off again. Nobody passed me and everything on the bike was functioning fine. Then on an uphill section in an open field I was passed by Jeff Yielding who was in my class. He was riding with another guy that wasn't in my class (didn't catch his name). I concentrated on Jeff and tried not to let him get away. He would put some distance on me on the uphills but when we got to the downhill and flat singletrack I was able to catch back up. About a mile from the end of the first lap we were riding on a flat section of the track weaving around the trees and I was right on Jeff's wheel. The trail took a slight left uphill bend with lots of big roots across the trail. He cleared the first root but when he hit the second one he did an endo and I rode right into him. It happened so fast I wasn't able to avoid him. I stopped after it happened and when I looked down he was all tangled up in his bike. I don't think he ever unclipped from his pedals. He said he was okay so I took off and finished the lap in 38:36.

The second lap was the easiest of the race, looking at my time I realize that I slowed down a bit for that lap, I didn't think I was going slower but at the same place as the first lap Jeff and his buddy passed me again. I dug in and stayed on his tail and we talked a bit for the rest of the lap. Luckily he cleared the roots on that lap without indecent but he said he had lost his Garmen somewhere along the way. I finished the second lap behind Jeff with a time of 40:39.

On the third and final lap I dropped off my camelbak and grabbed a bottle; it was a nice feeling getting the weight off my back. I stayed behind the 2 riders for about 10 minutes and got lucky on an uphill section. There was a fairly sharp turn and for some reason Jeff became unclipped from one of his pedals which caused him to slow down so I took the inside corner, hammered up the hill and passed both of them. I rode as hard as I could for the next couple miles and put some distance between us. When I crossed the creek around mile 3 I looked back and could only see the guy that had been riding with Jeff so I figured he couldn't be very far behind. After the gravel road when we got to the grassy part of the trial Jeff's friend was behind me and I was riding as hard as I could. He said "you know I'm not in your class" and I replied, "I know, I'm not worried about you". When we got to the section where Jeff had passed me the previous 2 laps I never saw him and I even passed somebody (from a different class). I kept going as hard as I could but I misjudged where end of the lap was and stood up and hammered up a hill when I thought I was nearing the end of the lap. I was about a half mile from the end, but I didn't know where Jeff was and I didn't want to get passed so near the end of the race.

It was really strange because that last half mile was the hardest bike ride I've ever been on. My legs felt like they were on fire and my quads started to cramp. I wasn't out of breath but I felt like I didn't have any strength in my legs. Every time I pushed down on the crank I said to myself "I'm almost there". I must have repeated that a thousand times. It was like my body was saying stop but I kept telling it to keep going. I wasn't going very fast but I was moving. I finished the lap with a time of 39:23 for an overall time of 1:58:38. When I got to the finish line I rode about 15 feet and fell over and laid in the grass for several minutes. It was like I was in a daze. It felt good but I was exhausted.

Turns out there were 2 riders in front of me; Rock won with a time of 1:54:55 and Zdenek Palecek got second with a time of 1:57:28; about a minute ahead of me. Jeff got fourth with a time of 2:01:19. I talked to him after the race and he said I passed him at the right time, I guess he burnt himself out trying to say with me and there was enough left on the lap that I was able to put over 2 minutes between us.

For third place I got a cool bronze medal (pictured below).

The next race in the series is next Sunday (Aug 2) at Castlewood State Park. Rock said he isn't going to be in that race but I expect a huge turnout since it's right outside of St. Louis and there will be lots of locals. I've ridden there many times but there will definitely be a home field advantage for the people that ride there all the time. The hills will be brutal but at least they aren't taking us up cardiac hill or the one behind the gazebo. I'll be spending the weekend in St. Louis so at least I won't have to get up so early the morning of the race. I'm looking forward to it.

UPDATE: Turns out Jeff has a blog; I enjoyed reading his take on the race. While I'm at it I'll post a few of the other racers blogs that I like:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Show-Me State Games mountain bike race

Time for another mountain bike race in the Midwest Fat Tire Series.  This time it's race #8 in the series and is at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park in Columbia on Sunday July 26th.

Here's a map of the course (re-posted from official site):

I've never ridden the trails there but I've been reading reviews online and it sounds like it's a well maintained park and should be a fast paced fun ride.  I like that the trails are fairly wide so traffic won't be as big of an issue as it was at the OMBA Caramba race.

I also expect it to draw more riders because of it's location so that will be good.  The more the better.

Here's a picture of me from the last race, taken by a really good photographer (click the picture to see the full set, mine is #66)

The picture was taken right after the first lap.  You can see the dirt on my leg and arm from my wreck.

If you like any of the pictures from the race the photographer is selling prints; his contact information is on his flickr account.  Hopefully he'll be at the Columbia race.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Running with Camelbak Flashflo; first impressions

A couple weeks ago I picked up a Camelbak Flashflo hydration pack at REI with the intention of wearing it during longer runs and the occasional trail run. I hadn't worn it yet, but I figured I should try it out on one of my nightly 5 mile runs before I really needed it.

The Flashflo is a fanny pack style hydration pack with a 50 ounce bladder. There's also an extra pocket that can be used to hold keys, a phone, energy bars or whatever. That's right, the fanny pack is back!

So I filled it up with water, threw in a couple Elixir Electrolyte Tablets, strapped it to my waist and off I went. My fist impression was that it was too loose. It was bouncing around as I ran. I stopped, tightened up the straps and took off again, but it was still too loose. Next I tightened it even more and clipped the strap as low as I could; below my waistband over my hip bones. That was the sweet spot. It was very tight but sat low enough not to interfere with my breathing and it stayed put; no more bouncing. The next thing I had to deal with was the placement of the drinking hose. The hose comes with an alligator type clip that I initially attached to my shirt, but it wasn't very comfortable there. It's actually a very well designed clip; it has a rod that comes off the clamp and when you push the rod to the side the clip opens and stays open until you push the rod back into place which closes the clamp. I ended up clipping the hose to the waist band so it ran across the front. When I needed to drink I simply flipped the rod on the clamp, took a drink and then clamped it back to the belt. It was very easy to do and I didn't have any problem doing it while running in the dark.

After about a mile the strap started loosening and it rode up to my waist and started bouncing again. That made me stop running, tighten the strap, unclip it and re-clip it over my hip bones again. It stayed there for about another mile. So my only real complaint is the design of the belt clips; they don't keep the belt tight. The belt itself is very sturdy, about an inch and a half wide, and the clips also seem very sturdy, but they don't grip the strap very well. It may be something I have to get used to but I may try setting the strap and putting a few stitches through the straps next to the clips so they don't come loose.

There are also smaller straps over the back of the pack that you can tighten as you empty the bladder to keep the pack tight, which is pretty cool.

Overall I'm very happy with the purchase. An added benefit was that it made me much more conscious of my running motion. I tend to run with a little bounce in my step and it reminded me to run in a more fluid motion; my goal when running is to not do anything that isn't propelling me forward and bouncing up and down is just wasted effort.

At first the extra weight on my lower back was very noticeable, but by the end of the run I had gotten used to it and it didn't bother me.

Here are a few pics I took of it after the run;

I'm going to keep wearing it on my next few runs and I hopefully I'll get a good trail run with it soon. I'll report back if my impression changes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

OMBA Caramba Race Results

The official race results have been posted for the July 12 Midwest Fat Tire Series mountain bike race at Sac River trails in Springfield MO. Here's a link to the results.

Having participated in the race I find many of the times humbling. I finished 3rd in the Sport 30-39 class, but I'm happy to see that excluding the Marathon racers I had the 15th best time overall. 2 of the Marathon Men had better times through 3 laps than I did and they rode 5 laps. Very impressive.

Since I like "what if's"; if I raced in expert open I would have gotten 8th and if I had raced expert 35+ I would have gotten 3rd (out of 3 riders). My goal is to move into the 35+ expert class at some point so that gives me a good idea where I'm at.

I'm also happy that my pace didn't drop off all that much during the course of the race. My first lap time was 39:12, my second lap time was 39:56 and my third lap time was 40:18.

The photographer at the race has started posting up photos on Flickr, here's a link to the set. I think he did a great job and I'd like to post a few of them here but I'll need to get his permission first.

The next race in the series is in 2 weeks on July 26th in Columbia. I'm going to try to make that race.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

OMBA Caramba Recap

The OMBA Caramba mountain bike race at the Sac River trails was today. I arrived at the park prior to the first race and was pleasantly surprised by the number of cars in the parking lots and lining the road.

The first race started at 11 and consisted of the Marathon and Beginner classes. I registered for the 30-39 Sport class so my race was scheduled to start at 12:30. I watched some of the first race and concentrated on warming up for mine. The weather wasn't bad; it was fairly warm and humid but there was plenty of cloud cover so it never really felt that hot to me. My plan for the race was to start with my 1 liter camelbak; drop it off after 2 laps and switch to a bottle. It turned out to be a pretty good plan.

When the race started they sent the various classes out in waves with about a minute between each start. I was in the 4th wave. I should have pushed it a lot harder at the start because I got stuck behind a couple riders that didn't want to be passed. Eventually I was able to get around them, then on some uphill switchbacks I wasn't paying attention and my front wheel washed out on a turn and I went down. I got back up pretty quickly and nobody passed me. The rest of the first lap was pretty difficult. The hills were a struggle and I was having trouble with other riders pretty much the whole way. On one downhill section I tried to pass someone on the outside on a turn and my front tire went over the bank and I went down pretty hard. My chain came off and it took me about a minute to get it back on. It felt like forever and 2 people passed me while I was messing with it. After I got back on the bike the rest of the first lap was pretty good and I finished it in about 39 minutes. The second lap was much better than the first; I was able to pass a few people and I felt better on the hills than I did in on the first lap. I did have one section where I took an uphill turn wrong, cutting it too short in too tall of a gear and had to run the bike up the hill. I was passed by 2 people and it took me a little while to pass them back. I finished the second lap in about 41 minutes. The third lap was my favorite. I dropped off the camelbak and even though it was almost empty, without it I felt a lot lighter on the bike. About halfway into the 3rd lap I got behind the lead 20-29 sport rider. I spent the rest of the lap on his tail. He would put some space between us on the downhills but I was able to catch back up on the uphills. It was pretty cool. Since we were in different classes I really didn't try to race him and I was trying to encourage him on the hills. I don't know if it really helped or not but he did seem to speed up a little when I said something.

On the final stretch of the last lap I pulled out into the grass, stood up and started hammering it. I passed the guy I had been following and for the first time of the day I felt pain. My quads just above my knees were cramping with each thrust. It was a strange feeling. My final time was 2 hours and 20 seconds so the last lap would have been about 41 minutes. I finished 3rd in my class with the winner about 5 minutes ahead of me and 2nd about 2 minutes ahead. I don't know exact times but hopefully they'll post up official results soon.

There was a professional photographer taking pictures that he said would be posted to Flickr, but here are a couple taken with my phone:

Starting line, I'm in there somewhere

Me, post-race; I think I'm waving off the paparazzi

I want to give a BIG THANKS to the event organizers; I had a blast and the volunteers did a great job. I'm going to try to do a few more races in this years Fat Tire Series; I've got my eyes on the Columbia race on the 26th, and the Castlewood races in August.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

OMBA Caramba Race Course

The course for the July 12th mountain bike race at Sac River trails has been posted on the series website.

I've rode the course several times and the section labeled #3 on the map is the toughest section; It's just a long fairly steep hill.

I'm getting pretty pumped about this race; last night I took my bike apart and cleaned and lubed everything in preparation. I think I need to replace one of the sealed bearing cartridges in the hub of my spinergy xyclone disk rear wheel; it's got a slight tick when it free spins but it will be fine.

I ran a pretty hard 5 miles last night, so for the next couple days I'm going to take it easy on the runs and go for a final shakedown ride on Saturday.

Hoping for a good turnout Sunday; there's a 30% chance for rain but this is Missouri so there's no telling.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Moses the cat

We got Moses back from the vet today. He's pretty lethargic but Dr. Ziegler from Parkcrest Veterinary Hospital said his blood work is back to near normal and should be okay. It's a struggle to get him to take his medication but he's never been very amiable. It's good to have him back though.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Weekend Recap

I had a pretty good 4th of July weekend. On Friday I rode Castlewood for about 2 hours. I started out on the hill behind the gazebo and that set the tone for the day; I rode pretty hard and fast all day and had a blast. I spent most of the time going back and forth on the roller-coaster trail which is my favorite trail but I ended up going up the gazebo hill 3 times; the last time my legs were on fire and it felt like my chest was going to explode. Good times. The only down side to the day was for the first 45 minutes of the ride there was a grinding noise coming from my bottom bracket whenever I petaled under pressure. It was pretty irritating but not enough to ruin a good ride. I knew my BB was having issues because about 2 weeks earlier when I was lubing my chain before a ride my crank was giving me quite a bit of resistance. I removed the cranks and I when I rolled the cartridge with my fingers, the left side was stiff and had a bit of a grinding feel. So I put the cranks back on and spun them really fast. That worked out the stiffness but I knew they needed to be replaced. After the ride on Friday I stopped by Sunset Cyclery near Watson and Kirkwood and picked up a new bottom bracket. The guy working there (Tim) was very helpful and looked at my bike to make sure I was getting the correct part. We also discussed building a 1X9 crank and he said he had built his first one a couple weeks earlier for a customer and suggested I buy one purpose built. They are marketed as downhill specific but no reason they wouldn't work for my XC rig. After visiting the shop I had a burrito at Nacho Mamma's in Rock Hill and spent the evening installing my new BB.

It rained Friday night so Saturday's ride was a mess. I started the day with Donuts from Lamars, then spent the morning at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Afterward I had a late lunch at Uno's in Kirkwood. I ordered the Numero Uno, my favorite deep dish pizza and it was excellent as always. Then I visited REI and picked up a CamelBak FlashFlo waistpack. I think it will be perfect for my longer runs. Finally, thinking things may have dried out enough I rode Chubb. I probably should have skipped it but I couldn't help myself. I almost always start on the Lone Elk end of the trail since it's a shorter drive, and I think this was the first time my car was the only one at the trailhead. That was a sign. It was a wet and muddy ride and the only highlight was that I finally rode down the steps. I always intend to ride them but at the last second I always chicken out. When you're approaching them it looks like you're going to ride off a cliff. But on my way up I told myself that if I stay to the left there is a clean line and I WILL make it. On the return trip I was riding really well and feeling pretty good so as I approached the steps I was like; "what the heck" (or something like that). I kept to the left, backed down off the seat and as I expected, the line was there and I went over them without any problem. It felt pretty good. Oh, and there was no more noise from my bottom bracket.

After the ride I had a late dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in the Galleria. I wasn't that hungry so I just ate an appetizer and took home a slice of cheesecake for breakfast the next day.

On Sunday I started the day with cheesecake, then rode Castlewood again. I was pretty sore on the hills from the previous two days so I only rode for about an hour. I did the hill behind the gazebo a couple times and after the second time I was ready to go home. The trails were in pretty good shape, but I stayed off the lower trails near the river. After the ride I packed back up and headed home to Springfield.

On a sad note, we returned home to find my cat Moses laying on the floor in the bathroom unable to move. We rushed him to the emergency vet and found out he had a blockage and wasn't able to urinate. They removed the blockage and kept him overnight. On Monday we took him to his normal vet and he's not yet recovered but they say he's showing signs of improvement. Hopefully there isn't any permanent kidney damage and we'll be able to bring him home tomorrow. When we were at the vet a couple brought in their dog to have him euthanized. I don't know exactly why but the dog looked pretty old. They were crying and it was just so sad. I kept thinking about my two dogs and how much they mean to me and it was heartbreaking. I don't know how I could handle that situation.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Broken parts

I just noticed I have a broken part on the shifter for my rear derailleur. I've had some sporadic involuntary shifting the last few rides and since I'm going to castlewood today I look for the cause. I use SRAM X-9 shifters and the one for the rear derailleur where you can adjust the line is broken where it screws in or out. I must have had an impact on that side because the hose for my rear brake has a kink in it near where it attaches to the reservoir. I was able to screw it in enough where it would stay in place but I'll have to replace it. Maybe I can switch to the 1X9 setup I've been thinking about and use the part from the other side.


I'm in St. Louis for the weekend. Things to do:

Shop at Trader Joes
Shop at REI
Ride Castlewood
Ride Chubb
Eat pizza at Unos
Eat anything at Nacho Mommas

Should be a good time.