Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I'm back! What off season really means for the average bike racer

It's that time of year again when I don't ride my bike very much.  I'm not sure off season is the right term though, because I still have so much going on.

For all of us that love endurance sports, but don't get to do them for a living, the "off-season" seems to mostly be a time to catch up on a lot of other things in life.  This year has been especially crazy for me. In just the last 2 months my father-in-law had open heart surgery, my car died (a couple times), I won a free lease on a new car through a charity raffle, my grandmother passed away, I'm getting a dental implant done, work has been as busy as ever, and I have a 2 year old!

God has definitely been testing me some, and some days I handle it better than others.  With all the challenges in life it can be really hard to balance our hobbies and passions.  At the end of the day we have to fight for the things we love and make them a priority.  I try to put God and my family first.  I try to give my best at work and make a positive difference there.  Those things alone take and deserve a LOT of time and energy.  But I also love riding and racing my mountain bike and know that God made that part of who I am.  So even though it's not easy I'm still working hard to make that a priority in my life.

Seasons are good, and the time away from riding has been good.  Getting back into training and spending time doing what I love will be even better.

I'm back! What off season really means for the average bike racer

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Park City Point to Point

I've ridden a lot of fun trails and raced a lot of long races, but the Park City Point to Point had the most fun trails I have ever ridden at a single event.  There is no exaggeration when the 75 mile race is advertised as being 90% single track.

I had a really good day on the bike and felt strong throughout the 6hr 50min day, which is a great feeling in itself.  Even though I had only seen the first 13 miles of the course the day before, my pacing worked out well and I flowed pretty well through just about all of the trails.  Going into the weekend I was pretty confident that if I rode well it would put me in contention for the top 5.  That didn't happen though and it seems like more guys are getting faster all the time.  I still had a solid top 10 finish and even though the exact result was a little bit of a let down I was happy with how I rode.  Alex Grant took his 6th win and is clearly on another level than the rest of us.  Tinker continues to amaze and was a strong 3rd while racing on a hard tail.

I stayed with a good friend from college and his family.  For me it doesn't get much better than staying in a mountain town with friends for the weekend.  Well it's better if my girls are there, but Beth's dad had heart surgery in Texas last week so Beth and Cameron have been back there.  Thank the Lord everything went well and he is doing well.

More than likely my season is over.  I do have a basically free ticket to Zurich next month booked on AA and have been floating the idea of doing 2 big marathon races in France including the Roc D'Azur.  I'm confident I could pull off a top 20 at one of them and qualify for 2015 Worlds, but there are some other things making the trip look difficult.  Being away from Beth and Cameron, work, and costs will all make it tough and I'm leaning towards no for the trip next month.  Either way I'm thankful for the continued opportunities to ride and race.  Very few races lived up to my goals this year, but I'm still happy, thankful, and looking forward to whatever God has in store for me next.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Big Bear Grizzly 100 and Leadville Trail 100 pt2

Time flies when you're working hard and having fun.  I can't believe 2 big races and our summer vacation already came and went.  It's been good and we got to spend some great time as a family in the mountains which we love.  

I worked hard this summer and went into the Big Bear Grizzly and Leadville in great shape and with really high hopes.  The Big Bear Grizzly is an awesome course with plenty of great single track and a really hard climb at the end.  It's the best endurance race course there could be in SoCal and I wanted to race for the win.  I rode well and was with the leaders about a third of the way, but had a slightly off day combined with some hydration / stomach problems that caused me to blow up at the end.  It was pretty bad and I went up the final hour long climb about 12 minutes than I did the week before pre-riding it at a tempo pace...  I had a lot of mixed feelings after the race, disappointed with my result, satisfied that I raced for the win and just didn't have it that day, and thankful to be in the mountains doing what I love.  It's a great event with a good balance of laid back grassroots feel, while well organized and plenty competitive at the front of the race.  The start and finish is right at the heart of the Big Bear Village which is great and I highly recommend the ride / race for next year.

Leadville was similar...  I think the elevation is just too much to have a peak performance when coming from sea level.  Even with about 9 days of acclimatizing in Big Bear 2 weeks before the race, I'm just a lot slower at 10 - 12,000ft!  It's such a great event I would love to have a super ride there, but this year was just good.  I wasn't feeling great early on and my hamstring was bothering me.  At the turn-around point at the top of Columbine I was about 10 minutes off my time from last year.  I was feeling pretty decent at that point though and was able to ride fairly well the 2nd half of the race (which is way longer than the first half mentally and physically!) and finished stronger than last year to get about the same time and 3 places better.  Whether or not I'll go back I'm not sure at this point...  Congrats to our good friend Tim for taking the win in the 50+ category, a lot of hard work and faith paid off!

A great week on vacation in Beaver Creek and Telluride (amazing!!) followed and now it's back to the regular routine at home.  I've only done 2 hard rides since being home but felt really strong on both.  I'm holding out for one more chance at a great ride in the big mountains next weekend - at the Park City Point to Point.  
With all the crazy things going on in the world we are so lucky and blessed to be riding and racing bikes.  I hope you realize that for yourself, be thankful, and make the most of the opportunities you're given!

Big Bear Grizzly 100 and Leadville Trail 100

 I was going fast most of the day at the Grizzly 100
 Haven't been on too many of these this year and was glad to make this one
 Common sight in our sink
 LT100 - working hard with Yuki during the 2nd half
 A good day, but not all that I was hoping for
Love these girls!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Long Live Long Rides

I do a lot of long rides and don’t say epic too often, but Saturday was a pretty epic day on the bike.  7.5 hours and 13,500 feet of climbing in the San Gabriel Mountains to Mt Baldy and Crystal Lake via Glendora Mountain Road.  My legs and energy were good throughout, but it was definitely too hot to be riding that long!  For what a crowded busy place SoCal is these particular roads are surprisingly not too busy with traffic.  And with the 4th of July holiday Glendora Mountain was actually closed to cars (due to high fire and drunk driving danger) so cyclists took over the road in the morning.  It was really cool to see.  And temperatures were also nice for the first half  of the ride up to Baldy.  The second half to Crystal Lake got a little dangerous with the heat though.  I had gone through about 6 bottles the first half of the ride and was still hydrated but the climb to Crystal lake is over an hour and it had to be 100 degrees up there at an average speed of about 6 miles per hour.  Not good.  I’ve never had this happen before but after riding with my hands on the tops of the bars for a few minutes, when I moved them back to the hoods they were almost too hot to hold.  Anyway about 30min into the climb I was getting too hot and knew one bottle of warm water wouldn’t get me to the top.  I was about to turn around when I saw a faucet in the shade at an entrance to a small camping area.  Thank God the water was cold so I doused myself and filled up my bottles for the rest of the climb.  It was still a long couple hours before I made it back to the car but I knew there was a store to stop at and that one water stop made the whole difference on being able to do the whole route in the heat.

The 2 week training block I’m in the middle of is planned to maintain my high end fitness while maximizing my endurance.  The 3 races I’m training for will all be 5-7 hours long, so my aerobic fitness has to be really high.  Basically my key rides are 2 intensity rides during the week – one at some short (3-5min) climbing repeats at a really high intensity above race pace, one tempo ride with about an hour at endurance race pace, and an endurance ride the length of my races (6-7 hours).  So far so good!

Now back to work so I can make it out on time for my repeats on Ridge Park this evening. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Getting it done - working hard towards some big summer races

Time flies!  Between work, riding, and playing with Cameron the days have just been flying by.  I can’t wait until August when we have a true vacation planned.  In the meantime I’ve been having some good times training hard and a few bumps in the road as well like a water leak at home and a tight hamstring that’s been nagging me for weeks now.  Mountain biking is a tough sport where success doesn’t come quickly so I’ve learned to enjoy the process and not focus too much on results.  But I love routine when I’m going through the process and having my routine thrown off a little adds some more stress to the day.  Life is good, it’s just challenging to balance the training and rest needed to be in top shape with everything else going on!

I was able to put in a couple very solid weeks of training in the middle of June.  After the 6 hours of Temecula I did a base week with another 18 hours of riding with a ton of climbing followed by a week with less time but more intensity including 2 weeks in a row racing Over the Hump.  I got my butt kicked both times, but I was racing fairly tired and that’s probably exactly what I needed.  I was tempted to do even more training after the poor results at OTH, but instead followed my plan and took a short rest week.  Now it’s time to get back after it with 2 more solid weeks on the bike before tapering back for the 3 big races I have planned for the summer…

July 26 – Big Bear Grizzly 100
Aug 9 – Leadville 100
Aug 30 – Park City Point to Point

It’s been a while since I’ve ridden in some big mountains, but that's the riding that I love most.  All 3 of these courses will really put me to the test, and that's exactly what I'm looking for!  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I'm still at it!

It's been a while since I've had any updates here, but I'm still at it!  Since the Whiskey 50...

We got to visit Catalina for the Gran Fondo.  I rode ok, but not strong enough to take on the full Sho-Air team.
 We had a great weekend in Texas with family
 I got the win at the 6 hours of Temecula
 Did a lot more training
 Had a water leak at home
And plenty of good times with Cameron!

Work is keeping me busy and training is on track for a couple big races where I'm hoping to do something special later this summer.  Thanks for checking-in!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Training Hard is the Easy Part!

When it comes to racing with a family and full-time job, training is definitely not the hard part.  Riding is fun and at least for me, riding hard is even more fun.  

Working, time, money and resting are the hard part.  To be happy and successful you first have to keep everything in perspective and realize most of our biggest commitments in life are all blessings in themselves.  That's hard to do in the moment when you're tired and have 10 more things to get done on a busy day.  And the culture around us only makes our stressful days seem even worse.  We're all expected to work long hours and keep up with the Jones's, while only sharing things that make us look good on Facebook and everywhere else.  Sorry if I sound like I'm preaching, but this blog is where I preach to myself and I struggle with this a lot (including the last couple weeks) so I'm going to preach some more.  

Being driven to work hard and be successful at bike racing is a good thing.  But only as long as you don't burn yourself out or hurt your relationships with the people you love.  So when you're frustrated that things aren't going to plan, or you have too much going on to ride more, take a minute to BE THANKFUL.  Be thankful that you have a job and income, be thankful you have a hyper kid to come home to and entertain after a long day, be thankful you're healthy enough to ride at all.  THEN if you combine that attitude with some good planning you will definitely GET MORE OUT OF THE RIDING AND RACING YOU CAN DO.  

With so many fast guys at the Whiskey 50, I had a good ride but it wasn't enough for a great result.  Still had a great time with my girls!

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!