Monday, March 14, 2011

The Rabbit Hole To Structured Training

2009 Tipperary Creek Point to Point (me, Bill Petry)

Anyone that has followed my ramblings here for any length of time has probably figured out that I am in many respects pretty new to the world of MTB racing.  This is not to say I am new to riding knobby tires on dirt or even a little friendly competition.  I started doing this in the early 1990s but took a very long break for school, family, etc.  I took up the sport of mountainbiking again recreationally in 2006 after meeting my good friend Bill Petry by chance at White Ranch after work.  It was my first time on a bike in years but I had just raced the Bolder Boulder the week before so I thought I was in pretty good shape.  Bill proved me wrong after the 13-mile loop and 3-4k of climbing.  He gave me a good whoopin' that day but it was exactly what I needed.  I started riding consistently from that day forward.  What follow was a string of casual testosterone-induced hammerfests that have somehow led me to where I am today.

My first official race was the last Winter Park race of 2009.  I had my baggy biking shorts on and an old jersey.  I don't think I had any gloves and my shoes were the Specialized Comp shoes I bought with my 1998 Rockhopper Comp (it was a sweet bike at the time).  I did ok considering the 2-weeks I spent training.  I think I had some water bottles (full of water) and a gel shot handed to me by my friend Mike Mequi before the race.  He said to duct tape it to my stem and suck it down when I got tired.  Seemed like a good idea to me so I went with it.  After some internal debate and a good pep talk, I decided to race in the Sport class rather than Beginner.  I remember sucking wind big time up the first major climb but managed to hang with the same group of guys which boosted confidence a little.  Every 2 or 3 min my baggy shorts would catch on my seat-post clamp and drop my seat out from under me which deflated confidence a little.  On the first downhill section someone tried to pass me around an outside corner, burning out in the loose stuff.   I remember thinking he was nuts for trying that but it was my first race and for all I knew he could pull it off.  After all he was riding a sweet bike and had an official looking race kit on. He didn't recover and ended up laying it down right in front of me.  It was one of those slow-motion moments where the mind seemed to have ample time to assess the situation and the mouth, plenty of time to emit some verbal expressions. I pulled up just enough to ride over his back wheel, off the trail, and into the branches of a pinion juniper tree still rubber-side down.  I looked over and saw him sitting up dazed on the side of the trail.  I didn't know if I was supposed to stop and help him out or just head off.  After a quick "are you ok?" he motioned me to ride on.  The rest of the race seemed to drag on forever (all 28 miles) but at last the finish line and my first real race in the books.  I was hooked.

That brings me back to what I was thinking this morning.  I was doing some intervals on my road bike. How did I go from some friendly recreational / social competition to early morning intervals in the garage with Techno music blasting on my iPod? The only answer I can come up to that question was that first race.  I don't think I have really looked back since.  I have been trying to find the end of the rabbit hole - It's been a great journey but no end in sight!  Up until last year I really didn't know much about training and I am still just learning many of the fundamentals.  With only one year behind me, I am still exploring what works for me training-wise.  The thought of hiring a coach has crossed my mind many times.  Doing so would cost some $$ and with the right coach I would most likely meet my potential much faster.  I think this might also come across as getting "too serious".  After all, I am not going Pro anytime soon.  Another downside of a coach in my mind is missing out on the excitement / frustration of exploring various training techniques for myself - kind of like some crazy lab experiment.  In the short term, I know there will be more flops (stuff exploding in beakers, small fires, implosions, etc) but long-term I think I will be better off (Note: If you want to get really fast, really quick, hire a coach!).  I am in no big hurry to solve the training puzzle having family, work, and life to balance along with this small obsession, and I think learning on my own keeps me motivated.  Yes, learning is good (LIG).  I will have a little help in the form of some books and a static training plan from LW Coaching this year but I'll be flying solo for the most part.

Here are some of the latest structured interval "experiments" from the past few weeks.  I have done both of these a few times on the trainer and have never had a more productive 60+ min riding indoors.

Pyramid Intervals (1 set): Info found HERE. This one hurts.

1x2 Intervals (4 sets): Info HERE.

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