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Training Update

I'm done numbering the weeks. Tahoe is off, and The Grizzly 100 is at the end of September. That's close enough that I need to start thinking about it, but today's not about that.

I just wrapped up the second block of Strava TCTP training, and the results have been great.

I used Coachwhip as my fitness test. I've been chasing a new PR there for a long time, and it's a sustained 10-minute dirt climb close to home. My litmus test for the Strava program was: Can this restore forward progress to my Coachwhip PRs?

Answer: Hell yes.

The first training block improved my time from 9:25 to 9:12, good enough for a new PR.

The second block got me down to 8:53, which I'm really pleased with. I've been trying to get under 9:00 for ages.

Two months of training took 32 seconds off a 9-minute climb. That's damn fine progress.

And across the board, I'm improving. My endurance is up, I'm holding my HR at 170BPM on my hill repeats (up from 165 or so) and I'm recovering from workouts really well.

Interesting sidenote: I've noticed in the past that I need to "wake up" my legs before I can perform at my best. I initially attempted a PR after a day of easy riding and a rest day, and was way, way off the pace.

I went back the very next day, and was 40 seconds faster to score that 8:53 PR.

I can't help thinking of the Limestone Canyon race, where I felt sluggish. It was the same pattern: a day of easy riding, a day of rest, then race. For my next race or PR attempt, I'll do some riding the day before and see how that feels.

Coachwhip PR: 8:53

Limestone Canyon Race

I lined up on Saturday morning for the Limestone Canyon race. I've resolved to race more often in 2019, and with Tahoe off the table, I've been looking for smaller, closer options. Limestone certainly fit the bill.

A peek at the course map and a bit of Google satellite imagery magic was nearly as good as a pre-ride. I printed out a little cheat sheet that combined course cues with a tactical plan:

START GO!
1.5 MOVE
1.9 CLIMB
4.0 RIDGE - 2 KICKERS
5.1 DESCEND
8.2 SHORT CLIMB
8.4 RIDGE
10.0 GO GO GO

I hoped I'd need the tactical info, but honestly I know where I stand in the Sport class pecking order. Just the same, it was really nice to have that on my top tube out on the course as a way to measure my efforts, and especially to know when to expect turns, climbs, etc.

It was clear from the map that there were basically two key points on the course. I figured that at mile 5.1, where the major climbing topped out, whoever was out front would probably stay there. And the best opportunity to be ahead at mile 5.1 would to go to the riders at the front when the fire road funneled onto singletrack at mile 2.

So the funnel onto singletrack would be the first selection, and the last two climbs on the ridge would be the second.

So I wasn't surprised when the race organizers told everyone at the start of the race: "Get your passing done by mile 2."

I mentally prepped for a lung-busting start, and hoped that the relatively flat singletrack to the first climb would provide a chance to breathe & find a sustainable rhythm.

Someone yelled, "GO!" and we were off.

I clipped in clean, and headed onto the fire road sitting top 10(-ish?), and tried to spin my way into solid position.

I don't think I was ruthless enough in passing. Several times, I let gaps form a wheel or two ahead of me, and had to catch the wheels of passing riders to get around, rather than pushing around myself. That might be smart racing (maybe?), but it felt like I was falling farther and farther back.

I'm reminded of a line from Sean Yates's book: "The field is going to split, and you're in the wrong half. MOVE UP."

By the time I hit the singletrack, I was sitting maybe top 15, felt, race stupid and my legs were toast. I figured the leaders were well up the trail and maybe I was hanging onto the back of the second group. I knew I'd have nothing left for the ridgeline if I didn't get my HR down, so I dropped a couple of gears, and tried to spin my way up the climb as easily as I could.

By the time I reached the ridgeline, I knew dialing back the intensity was a good call, but I also had no idea if there was anyone left behind me.

At that point, I got into the headspace that works for me in this situation: If there is anyone benind me, I want to hold them off. And if anyone ahead crumbles or has a mechanical, I want to be in position to capitalize. So I pushed on.

Right on cue at mile 5, the trail started down, and I let the bike run. It was really nice to be able to push over the top knowing I'd have a long descent to recover.

I passed a few riders on the way down through the canyon. One or two were completely shattered, granny-gearing it home, and most were coasting. In the past, the flats have been where I felt extremely weak, but I found that my recent training was doing me good. I didn't feel powerful, but I certainly had the gas to hold a fast pace down through the canyon, which was satisfying.

The final, short climb up to the ridgeline singletrack went easily enough. The trail was far more groomed than anything earlier in the course, which was nice, but I was well aware that I could push too hard, or I'd detonate.

The ridgeline singletrack was... not that much fun. It was loose and rocky, and several little downhills had become rutted, narrow funnels full of loose gravel. Throw in big prickly pear cacti here and there, and I found myself worrying far more about not getting hurt than about going fast.

Once I hit the fire road at mile 10, I just hit the gas and made sure to hold off anyone who might be close behind. I took a couple of looks behind me, didn't see anyone, and knew I'd probably be fine if I just held my pace.

The coast stayed clear all the way to the finish line. Final place: 9th out of 13 in Sport Men 36-49.

That's... pretty much what I expected. I was hoping for a solid mid-pack finish, but I felt like I rode better than I expected, and I see what I need to do to prep for future races.

First, I need to get leaner. I'm just carrying around way too much fat to be competitive. The single most obvious difference between the Beginners and the top of the Sport class is their body makup. Lots of bellies in the Beginners and slower Sport riders (myself included). Zero excess body weight on the podium.

Second, I need to continue the structured training I've been doing. I felt so much better after this race than any other race I've done, and I felt like I was much stronger later in the race than I would have been a few months ago.

And third, any prep for future races needs to simulate the classic local XC race start: 2 miles of fast fire road followed by steep singletrack climbing.

But I did a little number crunching, and I feel like moving up to a top-5 finish next year is doable. With a 1:05:00 finish, I was just 8 minutes off the podium, and just 10 minutes behind the winner. That's a big chunk of time, but getting 10 minutes faster on this course over the next year or so feels doable, and the math checks out.

Basically, extrapolating from my recent efforts on Coachwhip, I might be able to take a minute off my lap time each month. If I do that every month for a year, I'm on the podium. If I do any more than that, I win.

That definitely feels like something worth working for. I'd love to come back next year and post a top-5 finish or better.

So, today I did my endurance miles, and tomorrow it's intervals. The work continues...

Limestone Canyone 5/4/2019

Training: Week 28

Well, the training seems to be doing its job. I set a new PR on Coachwhip on Thursday: 9:12, down about 12 seconds from a two-year-old PR. That feels good.

So, I'll be continuing on the current training plan for another month, then going again. My long-time goal for Coachwhip has been to get under 9:00, and it feels like that's realistic to try for in a few weeks.

After a back-off week last week (week 28), I've resumed training this week with a modified schedule to prep for Limestone Canyon on Saturday morning. Yesterday's hill repeats felt strong, and the endurance-pace return leg home from the hill felt especially solid. I can feel that my endurance has kicked up pretty substantially.

Training: Weeks 23-27

I've officially crossed the Tahoe Trail 100 off my list. It was always, shall we say... aspirational, but with July just around the corner, it's time to either start logistical prep or acknowledge that a 14+ hours on the road and a hard day on the bike isn't a great fit for my life at the best of times. The fact that it's my wife's birthday weekend means it's time to get my priorities straight and call it.

I've been doing a version of Charmichael Training's Time-Crunched Training Protocol over the last four weeks. At the end of week 3, my legs were toast, and were sluggish and heavy for Monday and Tuesday of week 4, but they feel solid today. So tomorrow or Friday I'll take a shot at setting a new PR on Coachwhip. It's eluded me for a couple years, so we'll see how that goes.

And I'm set to start the Limestone Canyon Race in 10 days. Unfamiliar trails, plenty of climbing etc. I'm tempted to geek out about strategy, but I'm trying to internalize that in a one-hour race, the only real strategy is to stay with the leaders as long as I can. All I'm putting in my brain is to try not to blow up on the way to the high point at mile 7.7, and after that it's full gas to the finish.

So we'l see how this goes...

2019 Limestone Canyon Loop

Tahoe Prep: Weeks 19 - 22

It's crazy to think that I've been training for 5 months now. I know I've made progress, but honestly... I'm definitely feeling the effects of weeks of bad weather, successive colds, and a rough week of taking care of a sick wife & daughter. The last month has not been super-productive on the bike.

But I've hit a couple of important milestones, so I can't say I didn't accomplish anything.

Weight Loss

  • Previous weight: 181.6#
  • Current weight: 178.6#

I'm now back under 180# for the first time in years. That's definitely good for my health, and good for my cycling.

Updated Hardware

I've replaced the chainrings & chain on my bike, and it's running much more smoothly now. I can feel that there's a much more solid transfer of power from the pedals through the rear wheel.

I also took my road bike to the local bike shop for a tune-up, and they did a fantastic job. It's noticeably smoother. Unfortunately, I think the shifters are finally starting to give out after 13 years, so it may be time for a new groupset soon. I only ever use my road bike for training rides, so I'm going to just make do for the time being and keep my eyes peeled for a bargain.

Poised for New PRs

I rode up Coachwhip for the first time in ages this week, and posted a time just 6 seconds shy of my PR, and faster by far than I've been in more than 2 years. It's chafes a bit that I've had to work this hard to get back to where I was a few years back, but so be it. I'm hear, and there's nothing but open road ahead.

What Now?

Unfortunately, I have some kind of chest cold that's making it tough to really go full throttle. I have to respect the need to rest and get healthy. But I'm also in sort of a golden moment at work where my schedule allows me to ride more than usual, and I don't want to miss that opportunity. So I'm holding myself back just a little, and we'll see how I feel next week.

Bike Path Loop

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