Tag Archive | Training

Slow Ramp Up

I’m lying on my couch right now, looking at my road bike which needs a tube change before tomorrow morning’s ride. I cannot summon the energy to do it.

I worked out twice today, once on the bike, again with a 4 mile hike, and I can’t tell if I’m just that out of shape, or if I’m really feeling my age these days.

My rides have felt slow to me in 2015.  It’s almost May–I got a late start (we all did here in the Northeast), but I’m still feeling like riding is taking more effort than it should.  Was my hibernation that profound?  Is the hole I’m crawling out of that deep?  I don’t know.

I’ve set some goals for myself and I put some serious thought into them to make them reasonable, yet not too soft.  I’m still super pressed for time, sneaking in rides here and there–an hour on the bike when I can grab it. When I do ride, it’s almost always on the cross bike, and I almost always try to add something different:  a new path.  A piece of dirt road I haven’t explored yet.  Even just riding the grass next to the road. If it’s going to be an effort, I need to keep it fun.

Today I stayed local while my son was at baseball practice, and explored the banks of the Connecticut River.  I saw a loon and came across these raccoon tracks.  These are the perks of exploring with a cross bike.

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I finally hired a sitter–who starts tomorrow, The extra time I buy (literally) will allow me to push into rides that are 2, 3 or more hours. I need the base miles, more time in the saddle, to stretch and build my conditioning.

But again, right now I’m barely able to lift my arm to change the channel on the TV with the remote. Hopefully as I slowly re-enter my exercise routine my fitness will return and I won’t feel so shattered every weekend.

-Karen

Training Starts Now

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Sometimes a nudge can set plans in motion.

Because we have had so much snow, I’ve enjoyed a few extra weeks to make plans about cycling. So what’s to plan? Well–a lot. It takes a lot of thought to juggle a full time job, full time parenthood, and then tackle aggressive cycling goals.

Broad goals

  • 3000 miles in 2015
  • Three top 50% Cyclocross Finishes
  • 10++ races/events

Events on the tentative schedule for 2015 (some will be added, some subtracted…)

  • Domnarski Farm MTB Race June 7th
  • JAM Fund Grand FUNdo July 25
  • Forest Park CX Race August 22
  • Blunt Park CX Race August 23
  • Spartan Sprint OCR August 29
  • TBD CX Race September 5-6
  • TBD CX Race September 19-20
  • The Gran Prix Gloucester Cyclocross Race September 26-27
  • The Night Weasels Cometh CX Race September 30
  • KMC Providence Cyclocross Festival & CX Race October 3-4
  • TBD CX Race October 17-18
  • Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross Race October 31-November 1
  • Cheshire CX Race November 14

Any racing I do after mid November is gravy. Between daylight savings time and my son’s extracurriculars, I am not able to keep my fitness at the level it needs to be to “race.” I need to switch my mentality to manage my own expectations of myself–that’s hard for me to do–and just go into any of these events with a more fun attitude. Cycle Smart is my last huge effort and then I need to just do what I can without feeling bad about not being able to do more.

I’d like to do more MTB races but the schedule just isn’t lining up with my personal schedule. It’s OK. I’m going to try and preride the Cat 2 route at Domnarski to be sure I can do it competently (I know I can do it, just don’t want to sign up for complete humiliation).  I took 1st in the Cat 3 race last year so I should be able to handle the Cat 2 race (but let’s be clear–I have no delusions of podiums for that category).

Spartan Sprint kicked my ass last year and I’m going back this time and training for it. At least this year I’ll know what a burpee is before taking on that event.

The cyclocross racing is the main focus for me. Last year I was distracted by a job change and much of my focus was there–and that was a wiser, more appropriate choice for me. As a result, my racing performance suffered, I rode less miles overall. I was a couple lbs. heavier and less fit, and my head wasn’t in it like I wanted it to be. I’d like to write a different story this year. Nothing fictional, but something respectable (for me). Balance is needed in all things. I just want my cycling bucket to have a little more weight this year.

So what was that the nudge anyway?  Stay tuned…..

-Karen

Why I’m totally, completely, not ready for cyclocross

Ug!  I’m not riding nearly enough for so many reasons.  I’d like to being doing 70-80+ miles a week.  Instead, I’m sometimes breaking 40. Why?  Same old same old.

  1. No sitter.  Freaking babysitters, I cannot find a reliable one to save my life.  I really need to fix this because I’m not riding my bike after work.
  2. Work. I was riding to and from work every once and a while.  That’s pretty much stopped now.  There’s several reasons for this I won’t get into, but mostly it’s extremely difficult to squeeze 20 mins of riding before and after work, put a full day in, and still make it back in time to pick up my son from day camp.  I just don’t have to time without something giving.
  3. Needing rides to be more for fun.  I’ve been super stressed lately and I use riding to work out tension, fill my brain with endorphins, and clear my head of the bullshit of life.

My life feels wobbly right now, and one of the most grounding elements for me in the last 10 years has been cycling. Friday evening I picked the hardest place I know to mountain bike.  I needed to mash pedals, to hurt, to jar myself free of my stress. I fell off a bridge into the muddy edge of a pond. Win. Then, last Saturday I had the whole day to ride, and I thought about doing a 50 miler. Then I thought, well, maybe 40. Then I thought, no. Imposing a goal was just adding to my stress, and not taking it away.  I needed to just go ride my bike and let the rest work itself out.  It worked.  26 miles and I found a strong steady rhythm.  I pedaled until I felt resolved, if only for a little while.  Then I went home and got shit done (which also helps my stress).  Sunday, rain was forecast so I tried to beat it. I didn’t. That wasn’t a bad thing. Mountain biking in the warm rain washed my week clean. Mountain biking always means a 1/3 of the miles I’d be doing on a road bike, but the visceral action of mountain biking is like deep tissue massage for my soul.

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That leaves me here: not really ready for cyclocross. OK I’ve been riding some, but not training.  Major Jake is still hanging in my basement, untuned, unlubed and needing new bar tape.  I’m not doing intervals.  I’m not practicing dismounts.  I’m not practicing remounts. I’m not trying to cure my stutter step.  I’m not practicing carries, suit-casing, or shouldering while sprinting up a muddy hill. And I haven’t built that single speed cx bike yet either.

And I have to be honest, I’m not sure I should be putting my energies here, since life is needing my time and energy and some work that doesn’t involve a bicycle.

I have a vacation coming up and will be riding my bike at the largest mountain bike park in the world.  While it’s unwise to have expectations, mine are high.  I won’t by riding the whole time but I will be immersed in one of the most active mountain biking cultures on the earth: Whistler, BC.  Maybe after I return, I can refocus on cyclocross, and some of the non bicycle parts of my life.  Because all of it can be better.  

-Karen

2014 Cycling Goals: MTB, CX, Dirt Road Races

OK, OK.  It’s goal setting time. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about it, but over the years I’ve learned to become more flexible in goal setting (it’s true!  I’ve lightened up a bit!).  That said, I have so much I want to accomplish.  I think it’s reasonable to break out the year into chunks to better manage all the things I want to do.

Chunk #1- Januaryish to Marchish
Ride 3x a week
Run 2x a week
A good portion of my riding will have to be on the trainer. We have about a foot of cold white snow out there right now and a new weather term to discuss at the water cooler, Polar Vortex.
Events planned: None.

Chunk #2 Aprilish to Juneish
Ride 4+x a week
Run 1-2 a week
As much mountain biking as I can do (depending upon trail conditions)
Ramping up road mileage.
At least 1 CX ride (dirt roads, light trails) per week.
Events planned: Fat Tire Classic in Farmington, CT April 20, 2014 (tentative) MTB Race, Cat 3 40+ Masters
Kingdom CX in Victory, VT May 3, 2014 MTB/CX Race, 25 miles
Root 66 Domnarski Farm MTB Race in Ware, MA June 1, 2014 MTB Race, Cat 3 40+ Masters

Chunk #3 July to August
Ride 5+x a week–Base miles, big miles.
Cross skills practice 1x a week.
Intervals 1-2x a week.
Events planned: VT Overland Gran Prix in Woodstock, VT August 24, 2014 CX/Dirt Road Race, 53 miles
Monson Cyclocross Race in Monson, MA (alternative event to VT Overland) CX Race
Blunt Park Cyclocross Race in Springfield, MA (alternative event to VT Overland) CX Race

Chunk #4 September-December
Ride 4x week–cyclocross season. Hard weekends–racing or training. Hard Wednesdays.
Cross skills 2-3x week.
Intervals 1x week (Wednesdays)
Running if I feel ambitious.
Events planned:  Ooff. 10+ Cyclocross Races! Which ones? Nothing is officially scheduled yet, but here’s a partial list of races I’d like to compete in 2014.

Quad CX in Maynard, MA
The Night Weasels Cometh in Shrewsbury, MA
Gloucester Gran Prix in Gloucester, MA
Providence Cyclocross Festival in Providence, RI
Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross in Northampton, MA
Orchard CX in Hampton, NH
Sterling CX in Sterling, MA
Cheshire CX in Cheshire, CT
DAS Beaver CX in Dayville, CT

I’d like to compete in some smaller CX races, if possible. I do love the bigger races, the Gloucesters the Northamptons, the Providences….but they kill my points and I need some smaller races to even me out. Plus I feel like it’s easier to meet people at the smaller grassroots races.

My biggest goal for my 2014 Cyclocross Season is a top 50% finish. I know I’m capable of this and I need to set my sights on being fast and strong. I have a healthy season of larger race-oriented events (although I see these less as races than as events to build my strength and experience).

I have been told that the sophomore season of any sport is the hardest.  Hardest, with the most growth.  The 3rd year is supposed, supposed to be the year where that growth is realized.  Time will tell, but I’m looking forward to a terrific 2014.

-Karen

New toy: Garmin heart rate monitor

Like most cyclists, I am a self-confessed data junkie.  Because I love data, analysis, and retooling performance to achieve better numbers, I had resisted plunging all the way down the rabbit hole by getting a heart rate monitor.  But after last season’s cross racing experiment, I decided–I’m in.  Let’s do this, the right way.  With data and stats and some real training.  So I asked Santa, and Santa delivered.

My new HR Monitor is a Garmin and works with my Garmin Edge 500.  I tested it out on my “high intensity day” yesterday and here was the result, as provided by my Garmin data and Strava:

Strava Heart Rate & Watts

I’ve started playing with the Miller Formula to learn where I should be. I am quickly learning that a lot of this is subjective, and not everyone is the same. According to the formula, my maximum heart rate is 181. But clearly my numbers are actually higher.    These numbers are appropriate because it was a high intensity training ride, and designed to make my performance faster. But I should be hanging out in 130-150 zone to build endurance.

Heart Rate Zones for Exercising Chart:

* Healthy Heart Zone (Warm up) = 50 – 60% of maximum heart rate:
* Fitness Zone (Fat Burning) = 60 – 70% of maximum heart rate
* Aerobic Zone (Endurance Training) = 70 – 80% of maximum heart rate
* Anaerobic Zone (Performance Training) = 80 – 90% of maximum heart rate
* Red Line (Maximum Effort) = 90 – 100% of maximum heart rate

More to come on this as I learn more about training within heart rate zones.  The reading I’ve done so far indicate that mixing things up will make me strong, fast and with enough endurance to last.

-Karen

Is that a wrap? Not quite yet.

I’ve been absent a bit.  Sorry about that, I was off trying to get my groove back.

I didn’t do that last race of the season and I struggled with the decision right up until a a day after it was over.  I wasn’t going to be happy either way.  I probably should have done it, but meh–I didn’t.  My year’s recap is still pretty freaking good.

I had been needing a break and resisting taking one.  That said I managed to back off on my rides, started playing hoop again Saturday mornings, and started running a bit and hiking.  When I cycle, 90% of my rides have been on the mountain bike.  Low mileage, high fun riding.  Making the transition to less riding and more resting, peppered with alternative exercise has been a bit uncomfortable.  However, my legs finally feel fully recovered.  I’m having a lot of fun exploring a network of mountain bike trails that is close by and I haven’t fully explored due to my focus on mileage and CX training.

I plan to approach 2013 with some seriousness in training.  I plan to race again next fall, and I’m looking at building a credible base and at last some speed.  I plan to upgrade my Strava membership, purchase a US Cycling License, and dive headfirst into heart rate, suffer scores, and watt analysis. I have about 5-7 pounds to lose, but I’m giving myself until September to do that :)

I’ll chronicle more tangible goals and events after Christmas.  But for the last few days of 2012, I’m going to keep riding the mountain bike, increase my running distance and frequency, and enjoying my women’s pickup games, which have really taken off this year (I’m actually playing guard for the first time in my life, since 50% of the women showing up are 5’11” – 6’1″  -I am 5’8″ in shoes).

-Karen

Road to Improvement

The Finish Line at Gloucester’s Gran Prix 2012.

I took 2 whole days off the bike after Northampton’s CSIcx race weekend.  It’s amazing how 45 minutes of racing can leave you destroyed.  Two days in a row, I tapped out, needing the break.

When I entered that race weekend, I thought that this might be how I end the chapter of this freshmen effort in the sport of cyclocross.  But I was selling my new addiction short.

I registered for a small race in Connecticut for next weekend. Last year only 10 women raced in total.  They have a breakout category for just Cat 4 women this year, which may mean they are expecting a larger turnout.  At any rate, I’ll be racing with the Cat 1-4, but scored as a Cat 4.  I’m interested to see how that looks.  I was really pleased with my results at Northampton.  I felt I made very solid efforts and my placement–while nothing to write home about–had improved from a similar race (Providence).  In Providence, I was 63rd, in Northampton, 52 and 55th.  And while I realize it’s not an identical crowd, identical course, identical conditions or identical size field.  It is similar enough in all those regards that I feel a 11 placement improvement is well, an improvement.

Other things I have noticed in this pursuit:  I started playing women’s pickup hoops again this year.  Last year, my lungs burned and I poured sweat, red in the face and gasping trying to run a full court game for 90 minutes.  This year, I was up and down that court faster than ever, and I didn’t feel fatigued at all.  I was also sinking a few baskets this time, which was a nice switch.

To top it off, yesterday I went back to the ‘cross practice course that I am so lucky to have access to.  There is one other woman on Strava who has indexed this course in her workouts.  I’ve never met her but she is a friend of Heather’s and she races ‘cross and mountain bikes and does pretty well–considerably better than me.  When I first started doing laps at Ed’s farm I was a good 2 minutes off her time.  After yesterday, I have reduced it to 30 seconds.  And I know she has been going back there and improved upon her personal best as well.  It’s a stretch to think I could close down that gap entirely, but I wasn’t going full throttle yesterday, just keeping it a consistent effort and working on being efficient–so I know there is still time to carve off.

Not making mistakes on the course carves time.  Getting faster and stronger carves time.  Building endurance carves time.  Knowing your bicycle well enough that it is starts to become an extension of you carves time.  Skills work carves time.  Staying healthy carves time.  Staying lean and light carves time.  I am starting to see the moving parts, the art of improvement, the finer points of chance and luck and very hard work.

Cheshire CX (that small race in CT) is next weekend and I will finish toward the end of the pack.  I will score higher points because it’s a smaller race. That will help me get a better starting position for another race. Which will also carve time.

Negotiating these tight turns is another skill to practice to carve time. Gloucester Gran Prix, 2012. Women’s Elite.

Cyclocross races might only be 40 or 45 minutes long, but the game is a long one.  The effort that you put in day after day, each race is another stepping stone, each barrier, each muddy turn–each of these things are small factors that go into the larger result.  But what supersedes all of these things is the biggest, most important point of cyclocross.  It’s just really, really fun.  It’s really hard, really intense and incredibly fun.  It does not matter where you place, it matters that you are out there, shivering in the cold and mud and under modified sunlight pushing yourself and your bike as hard as possible.  This is an optimal medium for self discovery, and the person you race hardest against is yourself.

-Karen

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