Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vision Quest

Better late than never for a post on the Vision Quest I hope...  It was an awesome day!!

There are some things that make the VQ special and the excitement on race morning remains the same just as high for me even though I've done it multiple times now.  Waking up at 3:30 you know you're going to have an epic day regardless of the end result!

It's the same for everyone on the start line, fast or not so fast.  The funny thing is the guys mid pack talk about how cool it must be, or ask what it's like to do the race in 5 hours.  Ryan and I talk about what it would be like when we ride it for fun one day, stop at the aid stations and grab a burger on West Horse Thief.  The VQ can be hard to explain to people who haven't done it.  Like telling all my co-workers how it's one of the most biggest races of the year to any mountain biker in Orange County, even though there are no prizes or even a podium presentation if you win...  But that's just one of the things that makes it so cool.  I hope that never changes.

As far as the race goes, I didn't get off to my best start ever.  I know some of my splits and was riding a minute or two off of the pace from the last 2 years.  There was a group of 3-4 leaders that got away early and were soon out of sight with a lead that I didn't exactly know, but figured it had to be a solid few minutes.  I was feeling pretty good in the middle of the day going to the peak though, holding a steady pace with Ryan, and still knew that anything was possible.  For 3.5hrs I pushed myself while at the same time trying to be patient and confident mentally.  I had a great descent down Holy Jim and sure enough the same thing happened as 2 years ago, I caught the leaders right at the bottom.  I had a 2nd wind mentally but had to work really hard physically to climb up to Horsethief with Joel Titus without cramping.  At that point I knew I was having a good day and would leave it all out there trying to win.  When he did have a little issue, I didn't look back, just pushed myself, thought about how my family has always supported me, and did some praying all the way down to the finish.

For me, this year's VQ was truly about seeking what God wanted to do with me more than anything else.  After a great winter of training my first couple races of the year did not go as planned.  Even before then I've been questioning my racing a lot.  Is it taking away too much from my family?  Is the challenge of trying to balance my schedule outweighing the fun?  Am I done getting any better?!

On Saturday the 5th I was able to put in one of those rare efforts where I was pushing myself to the limit, but loving it.  All my questions about life weren't answered, but I did feel that love for racing again.  And I feel like I brought God just a little bit of glory doing what he made me to do.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Austin Rattler and the Vision Quest

Sometimes I don't have the time or energy to write an interesting or entertaining post, but here is a short and sweet update...

My trip to Texas last week had some ups and downs.  It was great to see family, but tough to see my  sister Kath have a bad crash.  I did qualify for Leadville, but was way off from the performance I was hoping to have at the race.

This week has been hectic at work, but I've had some nice evenings at home with Beth and Cameron.  My legs are rested and this evening is all about getting mentally ready to ride as well as I know I can at the Vision Quest tomorrow.  Life is messy, but God has been good to me.  Tomorrow I want to pour out the energy and love for riding that God has given me and simply enjoy the moment.

Friday, March 21, 2014

NUE - True Grit Epic

The True Grit Epic in St George last weekend was a great time with my girls, but I had a tough day on the bike.  The trails used in the True Grit are awesome and I was having a lot of fun on the technical desert single track.  The race was going really well for me with the leaders only a couple minutes up after the first of 2 big laps, but I faded pretty hard the last third of the race and was not riding well or having any fun out there.  When a race is 7 hours long, the last third is a long time to ride while feeling tired and getting some serious leg cramps (and in 30mph winds)!!  I ended up 4th.  I love endurance races, but there is a huge difference in pace and effort between a 4 and 7 hour race.  Both can be similarly hard if the 4 hour race is tough enough and fast enough, but the overall fatigue on a 7 hour race is brutal and it's hard to feel strong or fast at the end.

It was a combination of pacing, hydration, and coming off being sick that kept me from having a better day.  The first 2 of those were totally in my control and I was really disappointed after the race.  After a solid winter of training, and skipping the first few local races I was ready to ride well and challenge for the win.  Now that will have to wait for another day.  I've basically been resting all week so I can have a solid weekend of training before heading to the Austin Rattler on the 29th.  Can't wait to see family, friends and race in Tx again!

No road trip is complete without eating Subway in a gas station in your pajamas!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Training Part 2 - Training in the Real World

Well after my last post my "sick week" turned into 2.5 weeks and I was finally back to normal only a few days ago...  I was able to do some decent riding throughout and possibly pushed things a little too much a couple weekends ago.

As I wrote about last time the overall outline of effort and rest for your training plan is really important.  Beyond that the number one factor for success has to be the quality of your workouts.  And for those of us that live in the real world that also means being efficient with our time.  So you've hopefully heard - make your hard rides HARD and your easy rides EASY.  Also within that you should define a hard ride to be a certain intensity level OR endurance.  Make your high intensity rides HARD and your long rides LONG.  

For the longer races I'm training for that means my long rides are 4+ hours and usually 5-6 hours.  In the winter I'll have a few weeks where I do these back to back but after that there's no need for just about anyone to have more than one ride of that length per week.  If you combine that with a couple solid intensity days per week and minimize your riding on easy days, you can be successful and avoid the trap of simply riding more to get better.  

My intensity days vary the most throughout the season as my training ramps up, but most weeks only involve 2 solid days of training during the work week.  Last week for example I planned hard days for Tue and Thur.  I wasn't feeling well and skipped my Tuesday ride, then did some threshold work on my mountain bike Thursday morning.  I did 3 efforts about 10 minutes each right at threshold.  My total ride was only about 1:45 but I got in an awesome workout.  Sunday I was able to do something similar, but a bigger effort at 3x20min.  Both days though I knew leaving my front door that I was going to hit those efforts no matter what.  The rest of my week was based around those efforts so as long as I was healthy I was sure to put in really good efforts on those rides.  

My easy days have become easier than ever.  Lately my recovery rides are a commute to work and back - 15-20 minutes each way taking it really easy and that's it.  Which leads to...

The things that have helped me the most in balancing solid training with everything else:

Riding to and from work.  If you can leave extra clothes and food at work this can be a HUGE time saver.  Get creative and make it happen.  In the winter I training in the morning and end up at work.  Then an easy spin home in the evening.  In the summer I do the opposite when there is more daylight in the evening.  

Don't drive to do rides unless you have to.  Of course this one depends on where you live, but driving somewhere to ride takes a lot of time that could be spent pedaling.  

In season all rides have to have a focus - easy, intensity, or endurance. 

Ride with people who have the same training goals as you.  Ride with groups sparingly.  I'm a little anti-social this way, which is tough because I love riding with friends.  But group rides or meeting up with friends always takes up more time and I need to be spending time with my girls.

Snack well during the day and get a little rest at lunch.  I'm trying to get better at this myself.  

Have fun, enjoy the time you are on the bike.  Yeah I plan my riding and take it more seriously than most.  But at the same time when I'm out there pedaling, even if I'm working really hard, it can be the most peaceful part of my day.  It's my time to unwind, connect with God, and just enjoy something he wired me to do.  

I can't complain about the weather here, but an amazing day on Saturday was really welcome after getting soaked in the rain both days and crashing my road bike last weekend...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Base Training

After taking a rest week and being sick for over a week, it's good timing for me to write about training.  I know most everyone reading this, and most everyone that rides period, does so around a normal life, family and work.  So hopefully some of the training strategy that's worked for me over the years may help some of you out as well.  The "good timing" is because I can remind myself at the same time that I really have gotten in some solid training so far this year even though it didn't feel that way this past week.

Sept - Nov - I had a really long off season this year and haven't done a race in 6 months now.  After Leadville in August, I spent the next 3 months without any road riding and did whatever mountain bike rides I felt like.  On average that was about 2 rides per week with just a few random hard efforts and long rides thrown in.

December - In December my goal was simply to be more consistent and I was getting in 4 rides per week with one long one (5+ hours) on the weekend plus doing a pretty solid core workout twice a week.

Jan endurance block - after a week off the bike over the Christmas Holiday I took advantage of some extra time off work for New Years and did a really big endurance block.  In 8 days I rode about 30 hours with about 40,000ft of climbing.

Doing a focused block of rides like that every couple of months can give you some really good results compared to smaller incremental changes that you might see when keeping a similar routine week after week.   It's probably not a good idea for most people to have a huge jump in volume like I did, but I know from experience that my body reacts to the endurance rides really well.  If I were doing multiple days of hard intervals in a week I would personally have to be a lot more careful to not over do it.  But doing a similar training block like this at however many hours is a stretch for you can give big improvements.  Our it might be an intensity block right before your racing season starts.  Either way it's a good strategy to consider and can be balanced well with work if you do 2 big weekend, rides, 2-3 weekday rides, then 2 more big weekend rides, followed by the rest period.

The training period / block I work with most is a 2 week stretch, followed by 5-6 easy days.  I find this a lot easier to focus on compared to a 3 week training block that a lot of people go by.  It's better to be focused, and push a little harder for 2 weeks, compared to stretching things out for 3 weeks.  I follow-it up with a 5-6 day rest week and repeat.

Late Jan - The 2nd half of January I did 2 solid weeks of about 15 hours with a focus on endurance and introduced a little intensity with short power intervals one day per week and some tempo climbing on one of my big weekend rides.

Early Feb - The first half of February was another solid 2 week block at about 16 hours per week with my weekday intensity ride being some VO2 climbing repeats on the mountain bike and my other key rides being a hard tempo road ride on the Saturdays followed by a really big mountain bike ride on both Sundays.

Late Feb - After my rest / sick week it's time for 2 more weeks of building before the racing starts.  My intensity days will focus on efforts right around my threshold with one more real big endurance ride the first weekend and then tapering down to a more moderate endurance ride the 2nd week.

Then it's time to put it all together on race day!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Enjoying the Routine

After fighting a cold all week I had to sit out the Harding Time Trial this morning.  I wanted to be out there racing but it was really nice to have a chill morning with my girls.  Sometimes the best laid plans don't work out and you just have to listen to your body.  The last few weeks have been busy, but I've had some great training and even better times with Beth and Cameron...

 Rolling out early
 Some amazing sunrises!
 I know every bump on the bike trails here
 Where I spend most of my time
Burning through my snack drawer
 Checking mail
 Cameron helps with training plans
Lots of big climbing on the weekends
Cameron at her new desk

Friday, February 14, 2014

Spring Schedule - It's Time for Some Mountain Bike Racing!

Well here we go, I just registered for my first race, the Harding TT!  It's time to do some racing!  On the heels of the big announcements about the prize money for the PRO XC series, I'm as confident as I've ever been in my focus on endurance races.  I'm truly happy with the effort I put into racing national level cross country events and accomplished some big goals including a couple top 10 finishes and earning enough UCI points to race a world cup.  I still love cross country racing, but my inspiration has moved on to bigger landscapes, and my legs must follow!

Here is my plan for the Spring which will be followed right up with a couple big goals for the summer, still to be locked in based on how my first couple spring races go...

Wish me luck and see you at the races!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sometimes we need a tough week to remind us that we don't have it that bad

Last week I had a challenging week, mostly just busy and stressed at work, while catching a cold and not feeling well late in the week.  Of course I know that being stressed at work or having a cold during training season is not that big of a deal.  But at the time it's easy for our minds to start racing about how that busyness and lack of energy is keeping us from what we really want to be doing.  Being in a better mood when I'm home with my girls in the evening, getting in training rides, going to visit family, simply feeling positive about my work and not overwhelmed...  At least that's how it is for me, when my days gets out of balance I start exaggerating everything in my mind.

Well as I was getting ready to write this I found out that a 21 yer old local cyclist and employee of Jax Bicycle Center was killed while riding on Santiago Canyon on Sunday morning.  It's such sad and terrible news, and really puts things back into perspective.  We're called to live with an attitude of thankfulness and joy, even on the bad days.  Be thankful for all the positive things you have in your life TODAY.  Do something to help or encourage a friend or co-worker.  Hug the one's you love and tell them you love them!   I'm heading home from work to do that right now...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why I Ride

Do you ever question why you ride?

Over the last year I questioned my riding a lot.  Is it selfish to spend so much time on a bike?  What's the purpose?  Should I be spending that time and money to help others instead?  For me those are pretty tough questions, but over time I've come to believe more strongly than ever that riding is definitely one of the things God made me to do.

When I was first racing there was a strong sense of trying to prove something, trying to prove that I could be somebody.  But that was 15 years ago and that kind of teenage motivation is long gone.  Sure I've done well at some races and got some attention for my riding.  We all seek the approval of others whether we realize it or not, we even keep tabs on how many facebook likes we can get from last weekend's podium pic... But mountain bike racing is the opposite of a glamorous sport and that hasn't kept me going.    I surely haven't kept riding to make money.

I ride because God gave me a gift and we're called to make the most of the gifts the Lord has given us.

I ride because God has blessed me in so many amazing ways through racing.

I ride because I have faith that the Lord still has plans in store for me that are greater than I can even imagine.

It only takes a couple minutes of looking back to realize that riding is one of the most meaningful things I do with my life.  Of all things it was a Texas A&M Cycling Team Pub Crawl where I met my wife Beth.  Racing was something for my family to do together and brought us closer together.  All of my best friends I know through racing.  I'm healthy!  I've been able to travel to countless beautiful places on my bike.  The busier my life gets the more riding brings balance to my day.  And I'm starting to see more and more opportunities to help others through riding...

So why do you ride?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Stage21 Custom Bike Builder for Cannondale and Pinarello

Check out the cool new bike builder page by Stage21!  You can get exact weights and price quotes for custom builds on Cannondale & Pinarello road and mountain bikes.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Time Flies

Time flies when you're having fun (and working hard)!  It's been months since I've written anything meaningful here, but a lot has been happening.  2013 was a wonderful year in my life!  My faith, family, and friends really make me a happy man.  And every day Cameron has more personality and is do something new.  Overall my health, riding, and work have been going well too.  I'm so thankful for these things, but balancing them has been harder than ever and there are still plenty of daily challenges along the way.

Looking back on my racing this year leaves me a little frustrated.  I trained better than ever but ran into some bad luck and several off peak rides on race days.  I truly had what I felt were a couple breakthroughs on training rides, but definitely not at any of my races.  It was mentally frustrating at times since I've almost always been able to race above my training limits in the past and feel I did very little of that this year.  Definitely something to get back on track for 2014.

Coming into the Fall I was really happy to take a break and spend more time just hanging out with Beth and Cameron.  We had a lot of fun but it did go by pretty fast with work keeping us busy.  Up until a couple weeks ago there were plenty of days where I questioned whether or not I would be racing next year...  I want to race, but I also want to spend enough quality time with my family.  There's no need to prove anything on the bike, like I was so motivated by 10 years ago.  Sure I want to race better than I did this year and there are a couple races that I really want to win, but to me the results alone aren't reason enough for me to spend all that time training anymore.  It takes more for me to fully commit the next 9 months to a tough daily routine balancing work, time with Cameron, and hours of training.  Ultimately I want to race because God has done so much in my life through riding.  There are so many blessings I will have to write about it another time.  For now my goal for 2014 is to ride my heart out and see what else the Lord has in store for me!