Monday, April 12, 2010

Game On

The 2010 season has officially begun and after a pretty rough winter, everything is drying out a lot quicker than expected. I started training for this season back around January 1 and whenever I start a new season, I usually make a few minor tweaks to the training plan from the previous season. On a local level, I had a great season last year, winning the Iowa and Nebraska mountain bike series, however I fell short on the regional level at some of the bigger races. I rarely had the snap in my legs that I had in previous years. So for this year, I decided that it was time for something a little more substantial than ‘a few minor tweaks’ to the training regime.
New for this year…training with power and coaching. It had been a few years since I’d had any kind of threshold testing, so I hit up Zoom Performance for a couple of Vo2 tests to get my training zones dialed in. It turns out that my training zones had decreased over the past few years, which would explain why I never really felt like I had fresh legs last year. What would normally have been Zone 2 training for me was actually more Zone 3 than I had thought.
Power. I’m pretty old school in most of my approaches to training, and felt like I knew my body well enough to get by with training by heart rate. I got a pretty smokin’ deal on a Cyclops Powerbeam trainer and have been pretty amazed with how much easier it is to train indoors with power. I always knew that power was the gold standard in gauging training effort, however you have no idea until you actually use it as a training tool.
Coaching. Living in Des Moines, endurance athletes have a lot of great resources at their disposal, one of which is the coaching services of Zoom Performance. I spent a lot of the off season in the weight room and continue to pump some iron once a week, and plan to continue throughout the rest of the season. I’ve been working with Zoom coach Julie Vardaman in the weight room, who happens to know her stuff when it comes to strength and conditioning. Because she is also a cycling and running coach, her combined knowledge has proven invaluable and I’m very confident that this will be a very positive change for me.
As far as cycling goes, I’m still self coached, however I talk a lot with Zoom coach JJ Bailey about training. Being an age group world champion in the Olympic distance triathlon in 2009, his knowledge of elite level training makes for the perfect sounding board to discuss training with. He’s also the ‘master of ceremonies’ for my Vo2 testing, he’s superb at getting me to turn myself inside out as the test approaches a very, very painful ending.
Sponsors. Like last year, I’m back on board with Rasmussen Bike Shop, everybody knows that Rassy’s is the best shop in Iowa. Greg and the gang continue to go above and beyond any expectations that a racer has the right to expect. I cannot say enough about the support that I get from Rassy’s. I’m also back with Orbea and Oakley, the two best products of their kind. I am once again humbled at the amount of support that I get from Orbea and Oakley. I can only hope that they get as much value from me as I do them!
Racing. My first race of the season was last weekend, the season opener of Nebraska’s Psycowpath series at Jewell Park. The race was a short time trial on a new, technical course that I had never seen before. Julie and I arrived early enough to get a couple of laps in and we both had ear to ear grins on our faces during our pre ride. The trails at Jewell Park are my new favorites in Nebraska. Very tight and twisty with a lot of power climbs and very fast, swooping descents. I felt like I was riding a roller coaster over the entire lap!
Going into the race, I knew that a good finish was going to be difficult. A short 17 minute race on a pretty technical course provided a significant backyard advantage to the locals and those that have their engines tuned to that of a Ferrari. With my diesel engine being tuned more for a two hour effort, I figured that a top five finish would be a good day, given the conditions that I was facing.
In the end I avoided becoming a permanent part of the landscape, kept it rubber side down and came up about 30 seconds short of race winner and main Nebraska rival Kent McNeil. I achieved my primary goal of a top five finish by finishing in 5th, behind Kent, Steve Jarrett, Jesse Peterson and Mark Savery. When I think back on the race, I find myself thinking about how much fun I had riding on some of the sweetest singletrack that I’ve ever ridden, where I typically might find myself thinking about a tactical error in race strategy or training whenever I get beat. As much as I enjoyed this race, I’m looking forward to the longer races that my old body is much better suited for.
My average heart rate for the TT was 173, considerably higher than my LT HR of 168. If you know what all of that means, you’ll understand the kind of pain that I was for in 17 minutes. There were several instances where I felt like my eyeballs were going to pop out of my head. Usually when I subject myself to that kind of effort, the main thought going through my head is how I cannot wait for the pain to end and how eternal 17 minutes can seem. However, as I approached the finish I remember thinking to myself ‘wow, I can’t believe it’s over already’. I can attribute that to the fun factor. Did I happen to mention how much fun the trail was?
Julie had a stellar first race as a Category 1, winning with a very respectable time of 23:46. When we rode the course together, I was pretty amazed at how far she’d come since this time last year. She has come a long way and I couldn’t be more proud of her!

Next up is IMBCS #1 at Sylvan Island....which happened yesterday, and I took a flyer over my handlebars. If you'd like to know more, check back in a few days and I'll tell you all about it.

Thanks for reading,


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